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Cocktail Hour

Lundgren’s Lounge: “Unknown Caller,” by Debra Spark

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Reading Under the Influence

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Debra Spark’s recently published fourth novel, Unknown Caller, might be superficially characterized as a mystery, for it is certainly mysterious. From the opening (“It is two in the morning when the phone rings… When the phone rings at 2:00 a.m. at their house, it is always her calling.”), author Spark is inviting her readers to interrogate the reliability of their assumptions. An early morning phone call is ALWAYS a portent of disaster, right? And when the caller on the other end of the line rarely speaks, it weaves an almost claustrophobic sense of impending doom. But this beguiling novel is far more than mere mystery. At the heart of this riveting, non-chronological narrative, riven as it with myriad twists and turns and somersaults and flips, lies an examination of the very nature of perception. Continue reading →

Lundgren’s Lounge: “Hillbilly Elegy,” by J.D. Vance

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Reading Under the Influence

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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance is a curious book that brought to mind both Thomas Franks’ What’s the Matter with Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America and Joe Bageant’s Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class Wars. While the two latter titles are much more overtly political in perspective than Vance’s memoir, all the works reflect a growing preoccupation with a demographic group that feels left behind in the tectonic cultural and employment shifts that have ensued in the wake of globalization.

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In the Trump Mines

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2016-09-28-11-35-26-01          It’s the familiar lament of the political cartoonist. As a human you hate the politician and want them gone as soon as possible. But as a cartoonist, you want the same person to stick around for a long, long time. This has never been more true than with Donald Trump. Who wants to spend four years drawing Hillary?

The problem is not an acute one for me as I am no longer a professional cartoonist. I’m a writer and probably should stick to what I do best, but every four years or so I feel some sort of evolutionary, almost primal, prodding to pick up the pen and dip it in ink. It worked out pretty well with Romney and I was pleased with my caricature of him (which was challenging since he is blandly handsome). Trump has given me fits, however. I think it’s the same with satiric writing about him: how do you caricature someone who has pushed himself beyond caricature? But for me it’s even more basic than that. I don’t have him yet, and that bugs me. While my wife self-medicated (red wine) to get through the debate, I sat there with my drawing board in my lap drawing Trump after Trump after Trump. Sometimes I felt so close to capturing him…it should be so…easy….that strange little pouty kissy thing he does with his mouth…..the Grinch-like frown…..the brows pulled down like an angry Dad…..the sighs and overblown body language…’s just sitting there, a caricature already, so why can’t I just get it? I draw forty more Trumps and still, like a disobedient dog, he won’t come. Continue reading →

Lundgren’s Lounge meets Bad Advice Wednesday: Do Your Summer Reading this Fall

categories: Bad Advice / bad advice / Guest Columns

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Bill Lundgren

Bill Lundgren with Pearl the Blind Pug

The return to school and teaching duties in the fall always comes with a bittersweet sense of loss. Gone the unfettered freedom of summer with the absence of deadlines and in their place swimming and gardening and hiking and baseball and most of all, reading… savoring the exquisite pleasures of books and marveling at the universe’s talent for selecting just the right book at just the right time. Below are a few of the highlights of the past summer’s reads. But don’t let Fall keep you from discovering them all: Continue reading →

Bad Advice Wednesday: Start your Writing Machine!

categories: Bad Advice / bad advice / Movies

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After how many years in school, and then 25 more as a professor, I’m hopelessly (and happily) hooked into the academic year.  Summer is a time to refill the buckets of the soul–but come September, all those ideas from all those sunny days with all those friends old and new start to take paragraph form, my brain begging to get back to work, my fingers itching for the keyboard.  I don’t teach anymore, but I’ve kept the writing machine oiled and ready to go, dependable old thing!  And I’ll be getting back to Bill and Dave’s, as well.  Dave’s already in–but in the south, you know, they start school early.

Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines! Continue reading →

Nature Good. Screens Bad.

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This has been getting a lot of play since National Geographic posted it on their Facebook page last week:

nat geo 3

And here’s the hulu link again: