Feb. 15, 2010


by Nick Lantz

Would it make a difference to say we suffered
from affluenza in those days? Could we blame
Reaganomics, advertainment, the turducken
and televangelism we swallowed by the sporkful,
all that brunch and Jazzercise, Frappuccinos
we guzzled on the Seatac tarmac, sexcellent
celebutantes we ogled with camcorders while
our imagineers simulcast the administrivia
of our alarmaggedon across the glocal village?
Would it help to say that we misunderestimated
the effects of Frankenfood and mutagenic smog
to speculate that amid all our infornography
and anticipointment, some crisitunity slumbered
unnoticed in a roadside motel? Does it count
for nothing that we are now willing to admit
that the animatronic monster slouching across
the soundstage of our tragicomic docusoap
was only a distraction? Because now, for all our
gerrymandering, the anecdata won't line up for us.
When we saw those contrails cleaving the sky
above us, we couldn't make out their beginning
or their end. What, in those long hours of ash,
could our appletinis tell us of good or of evil?

"Portmanterrorism" by Nick Lantz, from The Lightning That Strikes the Neighbors' House. © The University of Wisconsin Press, 2010. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the Father of Modern Science, Galileo Galilei, (books by this author) born in Pisa, Italy (1564). It was Copernicus who suggested that it was the sun, and not the Earth, that was at the center of the universe. But Galileo became a famous public defender of that theory, called heliocentrism. The pope and Galileo were on friendly terms, and the pope encouraged Galileo to write a book outlining the controversy. But of course the pope instructed Galileo that he must not promote heliocentrism, and asked that his own beliefs be represented. So Galileo wrote Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, which purported to be a debate between two philosophers; but one of the two, Simplicio, sounded stupid, and it was this figure that acted as a mouthpiece of the pope. No one knows whether Galileo deliberately attacked the Pope — it's probable that he just couldn't write as convincing of an argument from a philosophy that undermined his own scientific beliefs. In any case, the pope was definitely not a fan of the book, and Galileo was put on trial for heresy. He publicly renounced his views, but he still spent the rest of his life under house arrest, and his books were banned.

It's the birthday of Susan B. Anthony, born in Adams, Massachusetts (1820). She was one of the leaders of the women's suffrage movement.

It's the birthday of cartoonist Art Spiegelman, (books by this author) born in Stockholm, Sweden (1948). He grew up in Queens, New York, and his parents were Holocaust survivors who hoped he would choose a respectable profession, maybe become a dentist. But he loved cartooning.

He went to college, but he dropped out to work full time for Topps Candy, and there he designed their "Wacky Packages" and "the Garbage Pail Kids," a parody of the Cabbage Patch Kids. He worked for Topps for more than 20 years.

He got married to a French graphic designer named Françoise Mouly, and together they started the magazine RAW, which published comics for adults. And it was in RAW that Spiegelman serialized a comic based on his father's experiences in Poland during the Holocaust, a strip called Maus. Spiegelman depicted the Jews as mice, the Nazis as cats, and the Poles as pigs. After it was published in RAW, Spiegelman released Maus: A Survivor's Tale in two volumes, subtitled My Father Bleeds History (1986) and And Here My Troubles Began (1991). Maus was extremely successful, and Spiegelman was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1992.

In 2004, he published In the Shadow of No Towers, about the September 11 attacks. And he and his wife edited several books of fairy tale comics for children, called Little Lit, which included work by Neil Gaiman, Paul Auster, and David Sedaris.

It's the birthday of writer and artist Miranda July, (books by this author) born in Barre, Vermont (1974). She is only 36 years old, and she has worked successfully on quite a variety of artistic projects — she dropped out of college and started her career as a performance artist; she sang with an indie rock group, The Need; she runs a collaborative Web site; and she wrote, directed, and acted in a film called You and Me and Everyone We Know (2005), which won awards at Cannes and Sundance and film festivals all over the world.

On top of all that, she wrote a book of short stories, No One Belongs Here More Than You (2007).

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show