I know when it happened. I went to the Mother Earth News Fair outside Seattle in June for work. Or actually it might have been even earlier, in March, when I went back east for work. I know it was sometime around some trip I took, and that before the trip I had posted sometimes to this here thing, but afterward I felt decidedly burnt out whenever I thought about it.
Anyhoo, things are great. I’ve started my MFA program at Antioch Los Angeles. I adore Antioch. I love my classmates, my mentor is the awesome writer, cheesemaker, and goatherd Brad Kessler (also a Vermonter, doubleplusgood).
The company I work for is rocking and rolling, with unprecedented success on the heels of Sandor Katz’s latest book, The Art of Fermentation. The company is also now employee owned! So I’m not only the fancy shmancy Web Content Editor — I’m also an owner. This is a huge step toward financial sustainability and longevity. It means no mega publisher can stomp in and buy us, ruining the legacy the founders have worked for three decades to establish. We are Chelsea Green, and we are here to stay!
I write or edit most of the blog posts at our website, so feel free to check out what we do. Most of you guys are homesteaders and radical-foodie types, which means if you don’t already know about our books you’ll probably be pleased to discover them.
Writing is going well, and I’ve achieved some sort of equilibrium where I no longer feel like my eyes are going to fall out from MFA plus full time work. Maybe I just adapted. Who knows, I’m going with it!
Gardening is going okay. That was pretty much abandoned along with tumbling too in the busy-ness of the past few months, but right now I have a plethora of happy seedlings sprouting in the SoCal autumn. All is well, except someone has nommed most of my chard seedlings. Someone small.
Happy end-of-October to you all.
Only a little more than a year has passed since Tropical Storm Irene slammed into the Eastern Seaboard. Authorities in New York City mobilized to prepare, and people laughed when she passed over the Big Apple without event.
But people in the Hudson Valley and Vermont were not laughing, and given the storm’s original trajectory were largely unprepared for what Irene would unleash. The storm dropped huge amounts of rain, and catastrophic flooding hit the narrow river valleys of New England, collapsing roads, washing away houses and stranding entire communities for days on end.
We were lucky. Our office, and the homes of our staff were spared the worst of the damage. Vermont has rallied to repair the washed out roads, and even the wrecked covered bridges are being rebuilt.
But here comes Hurricane Sandy at more than 500 miles wide and no signs of slowing down as she barrels to make landfall Monday night.
Conditions in the Atlantic where the storm is projected to pass are “unprecedented,” with warm water temperatures and a cold front sweeping in from the west. This storm has even typically sober national weather services sounding the alarm. Sandy has been labeled a “Frankenstorm,” and, once again, the East Coast is bracing for the worst.
Which brings us to the real subject of this post: Are you prepared?
Mat Stein’s latest book, When Disaster Strikes, outlines what to gather and what to expect from a few different types of natural disaster — including hurricanes. The excerpt below, in combination with his guidelines for putting together a 72-hour grab-and-go survival kit, will help you weather the storm.
Reposting from my more-writerly tumblr. The only thing I’ve ever written that I actually like to read again, now and then.
If there’s a nostalgic, sentimental feeling for the unspoiled landscape, what do we feel for the landscape in which natural growth overtakes man-made buildings? A sort of triumph of our pastoral longings, or a sort of sorrow for the failure of the product of human will and power?
on John D’Agata and Jim Fingal’s The Lifespan of a Fact.
Blackboard courtesy of Nieman Journalism Lab
A project of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard
John D’Agata and Jim Fingal
The Lifespan of a Fact
W.W. Norton & Company, February 2012. 128 pp.
A writer colleague, referring to a document she had written, confessed: “I totally D’Agata’d this.” I couldn’t help laughing. But her comment was unsettling because she meant that she had fudged her story, made some of it up. And I suspected that the man behind the reference, John D’Agata, co-author of the book The Lifespan of a Fact, would be pleased.
The book’s backstory begins in 2003: D’Agata had written an essay on assignment for Harper’s Magazine about a teenager who committed suicide in Las Vegas. Harper’s rejected the essay because of factual inaccuracies, so D’Agata re-sold it to another magazine, The Believer. Jim Fingal, the co-author of the book, then a 23-year-old intern, was given the opportunity to fact-check the article, and a pack of red pens to help in the effort. He probably used the entire pack — to little effect.
The necessity of fact-checking nonfiction has been discussed and disputed off and on in the publishing world over the past 40 years, usually in the wake of discoveries of inaccuracies or outright deceptions. Clifford Irving, named “Con Man of the Year” by Time Magazine in 1972, sold a fake biography of the reclusive Howard Hughes and spent more than a year in prison for fraud. Six years before the flurry of discussion that has greeted The Lifespan of a Fact, there was the great debate — and much finger-pointing — following revelations that James Frey, author of the best-selling memoir A Million Little Pieces, had exaggerated or simply made up information about his traumatic life. In 2008, Margaret B. Jones’s lauded memoir, Love and Consequences, the saga of her biracial gangbanging girlhood in the 1980s in South Central Los Angeles was revealed as pure fiction and “Margaret B. Jones” to be a pseudonym for a white middle-class woman from Sherman Oaks, Margaret Seltzer. The book was trashed by Riverhead, its publisher.
And yet, remember how the US Senator James Inhofe called Michael Crichton in to testify as an expert on climate change based on his NOVEL A State of Fear? I’m not defending D’Agata. My humble opinion on this matter is that it’s simple ass-hattery. But I will re-emphasize how disturbing it is when powerful people choose to “believe” whatever facts they feel like.
Our culture’s, and perhaps especially our politics’, relationship to fact is screwed up. Incredibly screwed up.
Maybe D’Agata is just a self-conscious product of all that.
It all sucks. I think. The culture of anti-intellectualism, and his work as product thereof.
What I wonder is, is he mad about all this controversy? What the hell is he thinking…
HEY! You California tumblrs need to know about a *big* ballot referendum that volunteers are currently gathering signatures for the November election. The Committee for the Right to Know is pushing the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, which would label GMO food as such.
In his “Paradise Parking” photo series, Paris-based photographer Peter Lippmann captures scenes where nature’s taking over abandoned cars. Lovely, really.
(spotted on Colossal)
I sort of wish all art was variations on this theme. Not that that desire makes any sense, because art is so much more biodiverse than that. But I guess what I really mean is: I love it.