Sleights of Hand

ConjunctionsIt’s coming soon: Conjunctions 65, Sleights of Hand: The Deception Issue.

Here is what Bradford Morrow, the editor of Conjunctions, has to say about this issue:

People of every age and stripe dissimulate, bluff, and beguile, whether in order to harm or protect. The writer, the artist, the magician, the thief—deceivers all. Animals, too, are masters of deceit. Even the orchid employs a wonderfully varied arsenal of pollinator deceptions, luring bees and wasps with a false promise of nourishment or sex. And consider Marina Tsvetaeva, who appropriated from Pushkin the observation that “a deception that elevates us is dearer than a legion of low truths,” thus complicating the subject entirely. This special issue of Conjunctions gathers a wide spectrum of essays, fiction, and poetry on the classic subject of deception, exploring a world in which truth is a most fragile, elaborate, and mercurial thing. Continue reading

And the Rains Came

RainI live in South Carolina—the Low Country—but just across the river from Georgia so the last several rainy days were gloomy but at best (worst?) we thoroughly watered the grasses, making walking the dogs a squishy experience. Other parts of the state were not so lucky and although the rain is apparently over, the waters are still rising.

Two interesting things came out of this millennial flood: the small government conservatives were johnny-on-the-spot holding out their hands for Federal disaster assistance and the religious right insisted the floods were clear evidence that God was not pleased with our treatment of Israel. Oh, no one on the conservative side of the aisle even whispered any suggestion that climate change might have played a part in the disaster.

Continue reading

Rereading Reconsidered

Is rereading a memory exercise or a refinement of discovery?

ReadingNow that I have left academia far behind me, I seldom reread a novel. Often it is because I regret having wasted too much time on it already. There are a couple of authors I reread with some regularity: James Joyce and Alain Robbe-Grillet come to mind. But for the most part I would imagine that I reread more books because I have forgotten that I read them before than I reread them on purpose.

Let’s face it: there are too many books waiting to be read to spend time rereading a familiar text.

It’s interesting to contemplate that a reader who rereads favorite books is so often also a reader who cannot abide by “spoilers.” But why would you want to reread a book?

Continue reading

Office Speak

officeHaving spent over thirty years in the world of big business, I experienced the fullest and ugliest extent of office speak. I came from an academic background solidly based on the study of literature and the need to write accurately and effectively (which is not to say that academia doesn’t have its own version of office speak). When I was fairly new to the business world I actively took up arms against the multitudinous seas of gobbledygook that passed as business communication only to be branded as a smart-ass. Still, my company even ran a course in the Learning Center on Effective Communications which championed concepts similar to my own; unfortunately, as soon as the course was over, most associates went right back to the same old overblown and hackneyed business jargon that once served to fill up the idle time before television and email were invented.

Continue reading