Selling the House

categories: Cocktail Hour


Photo by Mark Honerkamp

This is a hard one. As some of you know, our family house in East Dennis is now for sale. About the same year I was born, fifty five years ago, my parents bought a plot of land on a hill across from Sesuit Harbor. Not long after that my mother was driving through the town of Middelborro when she saw an old house that was scheduled to be torn down so that the new highway could be built. The house had been built in 1726, a Cape Codder with cedar shingles, wide oak floorboards, and thick hewn beams the color of chocolate. Before my mother pulled out she had purchased the beams, floorboards, and paneling for $50 and had them transplanted down to the land in East Dennis.That was the house where we were most a family, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been a writer without the house. My first book’s title, A Wild, Rank Place, referred both to a Thoreau quote about Cape Cod and the house itself.

The land, with its moat of trees and brush, its views of the harbor and the Bay, and its proximity to the beach, is amazing, and I suspect that the new owner will likely (and understandably) knock down the house to build something bigger and newer. Which is why I’m posting this today. With the small hope that there is someone out there who might love the house as it is: old, small, and beautiful. Please help me spread this post to those out there who might want to be the next family to be lucky enough to inhabit what has been, without overstatement, a magical place.

A State of Insanity

categories: Cocktail Hour

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Now it’s official. We live in the most crazy-ass state in the whole crazy-ass country. Any nice houses for sale up in Maine, Bill? Any jobs?

Imagine how angry he would have been if he had lost…..

categories: Cocktail Hour

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So today, for whatever reason, was the first day since the election that I fully pulled my head out of the sand and really watched the news. So is this what passes for a normal day now? A day where 1.The North Carolina legislature tries to strip the power of the incoming governor in a move that would embarrass a banana republic. 2. Everyone in the world but the incoming President admits the Russians hacked the election, and 3. Trump admits that the “Drain the Swamp” line was a cynical ploy for votes that he thought would be too hokey to ever work. So: what will tomorrow bring?





Goodbye to Sundance

categories: Cocktail Hour

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           The full moon over the marsh in North Carolina this morning takes a little of the sting away, but I expect the withdrawal to last for some time. On our last day at Sundance I couldn’t stop skiing. I had the back mountain practically to myself, and I kept going down, telling myself it was my last run, trying to take my skis off and then saying screw it and heading back up. The day before had been a stronger ski day (Black Diamonds after midday Hops Risings in the Bearclaw lodge up top, though no double Black Diamonds because I want to live).


My last afternoon really wasn’t about skiing, however. What was it about?  I was trying to not forget. Trying to memorize the face of Mount Timpanogos like a lover you won’t see for a long, long time. The avalanche chutes and the dark slashes of the Douglas firs. The clouds streaming overhead, crossing with other, slower batches of clouds. The wind coming from the west, pushing in the storm and blowing over the top as if trying to shoo the rest of us off the mountain. The raptor that was riding that wind (which was definitely not a turkey vulture and which I first thought a baldy but whose white underbelly said hawk). The slashes of sunlight cutting through the storm clouds.

A few times I skied the easiest runs so I could ski

Beer break at Bearclaw

backward and look up at the mountain face. I know it’s strange to feel so emotional about a place you just met. A part of this is the building desire I have had, over the last few years, to get back out West. But it’s more than that. I was at Sundance to talk about Ed Abbey and Wallace Stegner who, in very different ways, spent their lives fighting for wild places. In both of their cases what ended as activism started as love.  It’s a simple formula: fall hard for a place and you are more likely to fight for it.  That’s the history of Sundance, too. Remember, I can hear my more radical friends cautioning me, you are talking about a ski resort.  Point taken. But it is also thousands of acres that have been preserved beyond the resort and a place that has pushed back against the prevailing ethos of more and bigger.

That was what struck me most. For a place of such vast and sublime surroundings it is surprisingly intimate. In less than a week I felt on friendly terms not just with the face of Timpanogos or the view of Cascade as you got off the chairlift, but with the ski school staff who took Hadley in their hands and transformed a frightened North Carolinian who had seen snow 6 times into a skier. And with the generous and amazingly well-read (especially in the Gessner oeuvre) rental guys, including Patrick and Matt 1. Of course if I get started with thank-yous I won’t be able to stop. From Paul who drove us from the Continue reading →

Let’s Go On Strike on January 20th!

categories: Cocktail Hour


So I know there are a lot of marches and protests happening and I’m all for those. But what about a huge, well-organized general strike? There needs to be some real way to protest both the asinine appointments/nominations and the growing foreign policy horror show that threatens all of our safety. Trump and his biz cronies love productivity so let’s just shut it all down. Maybe it is exactly what social media evolved to do….Let’s declare that the country, or at least the vast majority of the country that didn’t vote for this clown, will go on strike starting on Friday, January 20, inauguration day.

Wait, you can't DO that!!!

Wait, you can’t DO that!!!

Guest contributor: Bill Lundgren

Lundgren’s Lounge: “Avid Reader,” by Robert Gottlieb

categories: Guest Columns / Reading Under the Influence

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Sometimes I feel like my life-long devotion to the act of reading marks me as a member of a cabal, furtive and unnoticed, moving around the edges of contemporary culture. And by reading I mean reading books… bound, tangible artifacts symbolic of the perhaps quaint notion that we can be enlightened and entertained by the words on a page. Continue reading →

Forgotten Moments in History

categories: Cocktail Hour

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Final Four Follow Up: Gessner vs. Plimpton, The Lost Footage

categories: Cocktail Hour


Not long ago we staged a final four tournament of the best literary magazines in the country.  The Paris Review and the upstart Ecotone both made the final four, but what we had forgotten was that some years ago there had already been a historic hoops battle between the two renowned magazines.   Now, after many hours of work on the part of the Bill and Dave research assistants, we have uncovered and retouched this lost footage of Paris Review Founding Editor George Plimpton playing Ecotone Founding Editor David Gessner in one-on-one.

Here it is:



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Things You Never Hear Writing Teachers Say

categories: Cocktail Hour


“Just write what comes into your head!”

“Too many specifics.”

“To hell with commas!”

“This piece needs more dialect.”

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Bad Advice Wednesday: Wally Stegner Chimes In

categories: bad advice / Cocktail Hour

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steg-portraitI don’t know of any better bad advice for writers, and humans, than what follows, from an interview in the middle of On Teaching and Writing Fiction by WS (edited by Lynn Stegner):


Most artists are flawed; but they probably ought to make the effort not to be. But how do you teach people to enlarge themselves in order to enlarge their writing? It is a little like asking them to “commit experience” for literary purposes.


Largeness is a lifelong matter–sometimes a conscious goal, sometimes not. You enlarge yourself because that is the kind of individual you are. You grow because you are not content not to. You are like a beaver that chews constantly because if it doesn’t, its teeth grow long and lock. You grow because you are a grower; you’re large because you can’t stand to be small.


If you are a grower and writer as well, your writing should get better and larger and wiser. But how you teach that, the Lord knows.

I guess you can suggest the ideal of it, the notion that is is a good thing to be large and magnanimous and wise, that it is a better aim in life than pleasure or money or fame. By comparison, it seems to me, pleasure and money, and probably fame as well, are contemptible goals.


I would go so far as to say that to a class. but not all the class would believe me.