News and Events

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“I had never thought about the ethics of memoir for one very simple reason: I was not a memoirist.” My piece on the slippery, elusive morality of family memoir—including a celebrity interview with my Mom—is up now on The Harvard Review Online.

I’ll be at The 1455 Summer Literary Festival in Winchester, Virginia, July 18-20—on the memoir panel, Family Matters, with Jeanne McCulloch, author of All Happy Families.

Time to sign up: I’m teaching a 4 week begin-your-memoir class at Catapult in NYC in July: Wednesdays 7-9, July 10-31.


"The US has a history of actively trying to keep politics out of literature.” I talk to the brilliant Johannes Lichtman about his novel Such Good Work in Scoundrel Time.

“The task of the writer is to bear witness.“ I interview the intrepid Roxana Robinson on her new novel, Dawson’s Fall—up now on Scoundrel Time.

Reading Pauline Kael at the equator: a new essay in The Normal School Online.

My friend Bill McGarvey, the only rock drummer/journalist I know of, has written the definitive analysis of the current college admissions scandal. Since I’m a college professor, I get to be quoted.

On April 11, by the miracle of video-conferencing, I transport myself to Lawrence University to talk about memoir. The irrepressible David McGlynn hosts.

I interview the border-crossing, multi-hyphenate Hong Kong writer Xu Xi about her new essay collection This Fish is Fowl—on Scoundrel Time.

January/February/March 2019

Criminals gets a prominent mention in an odd and wonderful article on Jewish biker gangs, “Hells Angels and Ridin’ Chai.” It’s by the journalist and comedian Harmon Leon.

Saturday, February 2, 2pm, Handley Library, Winchester, VA: Reading with the inimitable Karen E. Bender! Sponsored by the Virginia Center for the Literary Arts.

January 30, 6pm, Mulberry Street Branch of the New York City Public Library, 10 Jersey Street, NY NY 10012: I’ll be reading from Criminals.


Thursday, November 29, 7pm at the Visual Arts Center, Hollins University, Roanoke, VA: Writers Harvest Reading to benefit Feeding America Southwest Virginia. Donation: $10. I’ll be one of a dozen or so writers participating, including the inimitable Karen E. Bender.

An interview with Douglas Jackson at Book City Roanoke!

Reading with the amazing Karen E. Bender: Thursday, November 8 at 8:15 pm, Hollins University in Roanoke, VA—in the Hollins Room, Wyndham Robertson Library. Free and open to the public, as we like to say.

And then we do a Q & A together on Friday, November 9 at 11:00 am! Again, in the Hollins Room, Wyndham Robertson Library.

My essay “Psychedelic Family” is in Sonora Review 73, Frenzy Issue, out now.

My placebo saga, “Why I Take Fake Pills,” reprinted in Readers Digest Canada’s December issue.

Friday, October 5: I’ll be talking about memoir with the 11th graders at Avenues: The World School, in NYC.

Thursday, October 4 at 6:30 pm: I’ll be reading in NYC. The series is Prose Pros and the location is Sidewalk Cafe, 94 Avenue A at 6th Street, (212-473-7373). My reading partner is the marvelous writer and artist Roberta Allen.

“Hells Angels and Other Role Models:” a review of Criminals by Pete Tosiello in The Los Angeles Review of Books.

Somehow I missed it, but my article on placebo, originally in Smithsonian, was excerpted in Reader’s Digest this past summer.


Saturday/Sunday, August 4-5, I'll be teaching "Start Your Novel: A Weekend Bootcamp" at Catapult in NYC.

Thursday, July 26, at 7pm, I'll be part of the Scoundrel Time reading at Berl's Poetry Shop. The address is 141 Front Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11201. A dozen or so brilliant observers of the contemporary scene will participate, including Joan Silber, Mary Gaitskill, and the inimitable Karen E. Bender.

Monday, July 23, at 8pm, I'll be reading at Scribblers on the Roof. The address: Ansche Chesed, 251 West 100 Street, NY NY 10025. Teaming up with Kenneth Bonert, author of The Mandela Plot.

"Sometimes a father leaves his son no choice but to become a novelist." Criminals is reviewed by Alice B. Lloyd in The Weekly Standard. 

Click here for a recording of my conversation with host Matt Katz about Criminals on "Midday on WNYC." This was on Thursday, July 19.

Biker documentaries and burning paper money for the dead: my essay "My Father, the Lawyer for the Hells Angels, is up on Electric Literature. 

What to read this week? Newsday says Criminals!

Salvation, tenure, and various forms of imposture: my essay on writer's block and becoming a writer is up on Lithub.

Hells Angels, Phillip Larkin, fatherhood: I have an interview on Criminals up on Book Page.

"He was having seizures, I believed, little neurological explosions in his brain, and he was going to wake up impaired..." My essay "Choke" is up on the wonderful online magazine Epiphany.


April/May/June 2018

Betrayal, forgiveness, real estate:  my essay "Homesteaders," is up on Ascent. Oddly, it's a complete rewrite of the version in my book Criminals. I had to give it one more try.

Exciting news: Turns out I'll be spending the 2018-19 academic year guest teaching in the MFA program at Hollins UniversityA beautiful campus, brilliant students, wonderful faculty, a great reading series, and very spicy Laotian food in a little place down a country road, next to a gas station. What more could anybody want?


January/February/March 2018

Friday, March 30, at noon, I'll be giving a talk at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia: "Seeing and Believing: Can Placebos Make You a Better Writer?" Part of the Writing Life Series at Hollins' wonderful MFA program.

Consulting on fiction and nonfiction projects through Catapult. Scroll down to the bottom of the consultants page to find me.

Video from many years ago, here for safekeeping: Reading AWBR at Authors@Google Series 

Helped put together Scoundrel Time's 1st anniversary feature, "How it Ends." I have a piece there too, "Last Words." 



Joined the masthead at Scoundrel Time, a literary magazine interested in the politics of every-day personal experience. I'm Editor-At-Large, looking for fiction and nonfiction that speaks to the strange present moment in our political life...

Wanderlust, a reading of travel writing from the MFA program at UNCW: Saturday, December 2nd at 6pm, at Pomegranate Books in Wilmington, NC.

I'll be reading from Criminals alongside the marvelous novelist Kristen Iskandrian, author of Motherest: Monday, October 30th at 7pm, University of North Carolina Wilmington. Part of UNCW's annual Writers Week extravaganza --which this year features Ross Gay...I'll also be on a panel discussing "The Ethics of Voice" and on the next day, a little something on writing prompts...

Friday, October 27, giving a talk on placebo and creativity at Hollins University, Roanoke, Virginia.

My essay collection Criminals, coming out in July 2018 from Counterpoint Press.



“A Crash Course in Japanese Poetry,” North Carolina Teaching Asia Network, September 30, 2017

Thinking of starting a novel this summer? I'm teaching a weekend workshop for those contemplating the plunge. Start Your Novel: A Weekend Bootcamp. It's at Catapult in New York City, August 5-6.



"Can Placebos Work If You Know They're Placebos?" In which I talk with Mary Louise Kelly on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday. Just hit play.

"Why I Take Fake Pills," my piece on creativity and placebo, out in the May issue of Smithsonian.


January/February/March 2017

Just stumbled on "Last Fragment from a Taiwan Notebook: Traffic, Turn Signals, Fate" in Fulbright Taiwan's Research and Reflections. The madness of Taichung traffic--or is it my own madness?...Below the text is a short video interview on Fulbright and the value of cross-cultural interchange. Very earnest, but I believe it all absolutely.



Ants marching up the wall as it thunders outside: my palm-of-the-hand essay "Night in Taiwan" is in Fourth River.


July/August/ September

Franz Kafka, Lenny Bruce, a Sephardic shul on Ocean Parkway, and a Brooklyn-born artist by the name of Archie Rand. My piece on this glorious tangle is up now on The Los Angeles Review of Books: "A God Who Let Us Prove His Existence Would Be An Idol: Archie Rand, “The 613,” and the Slippery, Vexing, Kafkaesque Problem Of the Jewish Visual Imagination."

How lovely to see my essay "Criminals," originally in The Paris Review, listed as a Notable Essay in the 2016 edition of Best American Essays, along with 99 other marvelous pieces by Michael Martone, Pamela Erens, Corinne Manning, Wendy Rawlings, and so many others.



When your work is translated into another language--it's like getting into a transporter and flashing across the globe. The current issue of the Iranian lit mag Hamshahri Dastan is out now with a translation of my little essay, "My Mother, My Writing Student," first in the NY Times. A huge thank you to the wonderful translator, Basir Borhani.

The Los Angeles Review of Books has a quarterly journal, too, (print only,) and the Winter 2016 edition is out now with my palm-of-the-hand memoir "Postcard."


December/January/February 2016

My essay "Gourmets," originally in Tin House, is out for another stroll--this time in the December issue of Utne Reader.

The 2016 Pushcart Prize anthology is particularly amazing this year, with work by Zadie Smith, Colum McCann, and Joanna Scott, among other great writers. And it doesn't hurt that my essay "Gourmets," originally in Tin House, gets a special mention.

 "Love, Hunger, Memory," my graduate seminar in food writing, will be doing a public reading at Pomegranate Books in Wilmington, North Carolina, on Thursday, December 3 at 7 pm. Read class member Aurora Shimshak's blog post on the class experience. And Lydia Buchanan's post here. And come and join us if you're in town.



Tomatoes, possums, a blue heron, and other terrors of country living: all about our backyard in the new anthology 27 Views of Wilmington, out now...and including the irrepressible Karen E. Bender, Michael White, and Dana Sachs.

Punk rock icon, poet, novelist, luftmensch, wearer of extraordinary hats and Edwardian mustaches—I write about the British renaissance man Billy Childish on The Paris Review Daily...Billy Childish: I Just Paint.

My piece in The Paris Review Daily"Vermeer in Manhattan," has found its true language: Dutch. Now out in 360 Magazine



Rome, Tokyo, temple robbery, and the many uses of wigs…my essay "Criminals" is out in the fall issue of The Paris Review. That's the issue with memoir by James Salter and a new short story by Deborah Eisenberg.

The cross-pollination of writing and art at the Guggenheim: "I Think I Would Rather Be a Painter"--on The Paris Review Daily.

A gourmet food tour of France that goes strangely awry...a job guiding Japanese tourists through the labyrinths of Manhattan…My essay collection Criminals has been acquired by Counterpoint Press. 

"Vermeer in Manhattan"--in which I visit all eight of the New York Vermeers with poet Michael White, on The Paris Review Daily.

I talk with poet and memoirist Michael White in The Los Angeles Review of Books: "Enigmatic Interiors: On Love, Death, Divorce, and Michael White’s New Travels in Vermeer"



Avant-garde trickster Terayama Shuji's fiction offers a world in which puppets fall in love and make their owners jealous, and talking birds learn the art of betrayal. My review of The Crimson Thread of Abandon is up now on Three Percent.

Author Spotlight for the O. Henry Prize Anthology up now...

Inmates in a Chinese re-education camp struggle to survive famine and each other in the years after the Great Leap Forward: my review of Chinese dissident novelist Yan Lianke's The Four Books is up now at The Rumpus.

Why is it that I love reading about travel even more than traveling? My UNCW travel writing seminar will be doing a group reading at Wilmington's Pomegranate Books on Friday, April 24 at 7 pm. Stop by if you're in town.

I love the dialogue in Chinese novelist Yan Lianke's Serve the People!, so when NOR asked me to write on dialogue, I went right to that wonderful book. "I Deserve Two Firing Squads: Dialogue and Conflict in Fiction" is out now in The New Ohio Review.


December/January/February 2015

A Japanese translation of "The Right Imaginary Person" is in the February issue of 英語で読む村上春樹,世界の中の日本文学 (Eigo de yomu Murakami Haruki--sekai no naka no Nihonbungaku), which accompanies the NHK radio show Rajiru-Rajiru….To see my story transformed into "正しい架空の人" (Tadashii kakuu no hito) was like stepping through a door into a dream. A huge thank you to Fujii Hikaru for an enormously sensitive translation and commentary.



"How Writers Write Fiction," a new online class offered by the University of Iowa, with video segments by lots of incredible writers—and me talking about haiku and “sea slugs, frozen in one clump.”

The 2014 O. Henry Prize Anthology is out now with my story "The Right Imaginary Person" from Tin House-- alongside pieces by William Trevor, Dylan Landis, Louise Erdrich, and a bunch of other amazing writers.

My essay "Unreliable Tour Guide," originally in the Winter issue of Ploughshares, was named a Notable Essay in the 2014 Best American Essays anthology.



A 13 year old kid on a food tour of France with three middle-aged ladies who can't get along: my essay "Gourmets" is out in the Fall issue of Tin House.

Everyone knows how vulnerable it can feel to show your writing in a workshop, but the truth is that it can feel vulnerable to teach a writing workshop too--especially when you have your mother in your class…My piece on this odd conundrum is out now in The New York Times.



Wednesday, May 21 at 7:20, I'll be giving a final presentation at the Foundation for Scholarly Exchange in Taipei: 2nd Fl., 45 Yanping S. Rd., Zhongzheng District, 中正區延平南路45號2樓, Tel. 02-2388-2100.

My short story, "The Right Imaginary Person," will be in the 2014 O. Henry Prize anthology, out this fall. It's a great collection of the year's short fiction, full of work by wonderful writers, including the extraordinary William Trevor.

Back to Tunghai High on Monday, May 5, for another haiku session!

Reprise visit to Dah-Yeh University on May 1st, this time to give a workshop on the uses of creative writing for English instruction. What better way to practice a language than to tell a story in it?

I'll be at Tunghai University Affiliated High School on Monday, April 28, teaching haiku to the 7th and 8th graders.

Bats, cobras, housepainters who use their ladders as stilts to walk around the room: "Fragments from a Taiwan Notebook" in the current edition of Fulbright Taiwan's Research and Reflections.


December/January/February 2014

Presentation at Dah-Yeh University, Taiwan, Tuesday, February 18 at 1:30. I'll try to distill my various confusions about narrative and the odd joys of the English language.

I talk with the wonderful Chinese novelist Yan Lianke in Bookforum about sex, socialism, banned books and poisoned ducks.

Have you ever found an old book and suddenly remembered the time in your life when you first read it? I write about that experience in the Winter issue of Tin House, out now.

"When I sat down to consider my marketable skills, I identified just three: I was good at trading raunchy jokes with drunken clergy; I knew how to make an open fan swoop and glide across a room; and I could speak Japanese...” I write about the mystery of employment for writers in "Unreliable Tour Guide," in the new Winter issue of Ploughshares, out now.


August/September/October/November 2013

My piece on Kawabata Yasunari is out in the Fall issue of Ploughshares“Kawabata Yasunari: The Breeze in the Ink Painting."

A conversation with Karen E. Bender on love, politics, and the future of the novel--in Bookforum.

 "The Right Imaginary Person" (Tin House, Winter 2012) is named a Notable Story in the 2013 edition of Best American Short Stories.

"Nothing that Wants to Run Away," on death, fatherhood, and our obsession with meat, out in The Harvard Review 44. In the same issue: a new short story from a favorite writer, Edith Pearlman.

Cats, marriage, Proust: a conversation with Peter Trachtenberg on his extraordinary new book, Another Insane Devotion--in Bookforum.