Gray Basnight and Flight of the Fox

When we heard about the connection between New York writer, Gray Basnight, and Phoenix Books owner, Mike DeSanto, we thought it would be fun to ask Gray to write a guest blog for us. Thanks Gray! If you’re looking for a gift for someone on your list who enjoys political thrillers, do check out Basnight’s latest, Flight of the Fox, out now from Down & Out Books.

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Books Brought Us Back Together in Vermont

40 Years After Pursuing Theatre in DC and NYC

by Gray Basnight

In my latest novel, a thriller called Flight of the Fox, my central character is a mathematician who frequently wonders about the mysterious impact of numbers upon human life. That’s no accident. I’ve been wondering about numbers since receiving my first AARP mailing, which seemed to happen five seconds after I turned 50. That was 15 years ago.

Scientists define a year as “365 solar days required for one revolution of the earth around the sun.” Scientists are wrong. As a 65-year-old, I know for a fact that each year goes faster than the previous one. The older I get, the faster they go. Last year, for example, sped past in about a week-and-a-half. Thus, all scientists must revisit this solar revolution thing ASAP (not to be confused with AARP).

Which brings me to my recent reunion in September 2018 with old friend Mike DeSanto who owns five bookstores in Vermont along with his partner Renee Reiner.  My novel and his bookstores brought us back together after nearly 40 years of being AWOL from each other’s lives.

Mike and I were buddies in graduate school at George Washington University in the late 1970s. We studied theatre. My plan was to receive an MFA and become a college theatre professor. After finishing school, I moved to New York City to live the actor’s life for a brief sojourn, which I thought was key to my overall education as a well-rounded sage of theatre. Mike did the same. We even lived in the same apartment building way uptown near the George Washington Bridge. Unfortunately for me, to pay the rent, I waited tables and tended bar. Meanwhile, Mike developed a budding movie career with a series of union film jobs. I was impressed and glad for him.

What happened next is a bit foggy. All I remember is that after a couple of years, Mike vacated the city to rejoin his family in Maryland and pursue better salaried opportunities. I, too, thought of doing the same. For me, it would have meant going back to Richmond, Virginia, to be a high school English teacher. Ultimately, I didn’t because I couldn’t abide the feeling of retreating from the biggest challenge of my young life with my tail tightly tucked under. Then I got lucky. I fell into a radio job at WOR-AM, loved it, and eventually became a news writer, producer, and reporter. Thirty years later I was laid off during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Instead of hustling to get another radio gig, I sat down and began my third career—this time as a novelist.

Now back to Mike DeSanto.  

Little did I know that along the way Mike had moved to Vermont and began running bookstores— he now has five, one each in Burlington, Essex, Rutland, Chester, and Woodstock. Last year, he saw my name listed as an attendee at a writer’s conference in Toronto and he figured … um … could there be more than one Gray Basnight in this world? With a name like mine—hardly.  Thus, two old acting buddies we were reunited through books: his life as a book retailer and my life as a book writer.

Consequently, it was a privilege to appear at Mike’s Phoenix Books in Burlington for Flight of the Fox in September.  

As a bonus, we had dinner together, relived old stories from our grad school days and our struggle as actors in NYC. It was a wonderful reunion that made those decades of absence seem like … well, like they went by in a flash.

Which brings me back to numbers. I remember being about 12 years old when I heard my Aunt Bebe ponder her age, which at the time was about 65, and which, also at the time, I thought to be rather elderly. Speaking to me in all seriousness, she asked me: “How did it happen?”

My answer: “Gee, Aunt Bebe, I guess the years just kind of added up.”

She didn’t appreciate my mathematic answer. Now I know why, which is AISB (As It Should Be).

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Flight of the Fox is a political thriller in which high-tech surveillance, predatory drones, a government gone wild, and an everyman hero converge. An innocent math professor tries to decode a mystery file that lands in his in-box while a team of hit men chase him from the Catskills to NYC and down the East Coast. Their goal is to suppress dark government crimes from decades past. His goal is for the truth to be told. The action switches between the J. Edgar Hoover era and Professor Sam Teagarden’s decoding of the mystery file in 2019, against the 50th Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival. As the professor runs for his life, armed only with his wits and intellect, he worries whether the truth will be told, and if he’ll be seen as a hero whistle blower or a pariah.  Or worse, will he end up dead? 

“An electrifying, propulsive and timely thriller… that, by all rights, should shoot to the top of every bestseller list in the country…”
Mysterious Book Review (July 16)

Gray Basnight is deeply immersed in fiction writing, after almost three decades in broadcast news as a writer, editor, producer, and reporter; preceded by a few years pursuing an acting career.  His latest book is the political thriller Flight of the Fox (Down & Out Books).

Gray lives in New York with his wife and their Golden Retriever Tinta.

The Dipper - December 2018

"The Dipper" is our monthly newsletter, where we highlight readings, events, calls for submission, and other literary-related news for the coming month. If you have news or events to share, let us know

 

December News

December is a quiet month in terms of readings and literary events. (If you squint at the month of December on our calendar, it looks a bit like a snowy field dotted with a few bare, beautiful trees.)

This month might be the perfect time to catch up on your TBR pile and your Slow Club Book Club reading. If you’re like Shari, you might want to start searching out titles that you want to add to your wish list for 2019.

In the new year, be on the lookout for our “Year in Reading” posts again, as we follow suit with The Millions.

Remember that books make great gifts! Support your local independent bookstores. Happy Holidays from Literary North!

December’s Shooting Stars

A cool literary find from each of us to help light up your month:

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  • BBC Radio 4 invited Cheryl Strayed, Ocean Vuong, and Sharon Olds to visit Emily Dickinson’s house in Amherst and to write in her room. Many interesting reflections on her life and work. —Shari

  • Speaking of snowy fields, do you know about Shelley Jackson’s beautiful, slow Instagram story written in snow? She’s been writing the story, word by word, during the snowy months in New York since 2014. I absolutely love the slow pace of this project, and the way it meanders through the months and years. (Tip: If you’re not good at reading a story backwards, you can read at least the first six sentences in their correct order on Electric Lit.) —Rebecca


December Highlights

Leath Tonino

Leath Tonino

Leath Tonino will be at Flying Pigs Books in Shelburne, Vermont, on Saturday, December 1 at 6:30 pm to read from his essay collection, The Animal One Thousand Miles Long.

On Saturday, December 8, at 6:00 pm, Andre Dubus III will be reading from his latest novel at The Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont.

Louise Penny, author of the Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series, will be at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, New Hampshire, on Sunday, December 9, at 1:00 pm. Ticket are $38 and include a signed copy of the latest book in the series, Kingdom of the Blind.

Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith

US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith will be at The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Wednesday, December 12, at 7:00 pm to accept the 2018 Hall-Kenyon Prize in American Poetry. Tickets are $5-10.

Mitchell S. Jackson will be at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, on Wednesday, December 12, at 8:00 pm. Jackson’s new book, Survival Math, is due out on March 5, 2019, and we’ve heard excellent things about it!

On Friday, December 14, at 7:00 pm, George Howe Colt, will be at The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont, to read from his new book, The Game.

Madeleine Kunin will be reading from and discussing her memoir, Coming of Age, at The Norwich Congregational Church in Norwich, Vermont, on Wednesday, December 19, at 7:00 pm.

Visit our calendar for detailed information about these events and more!

 

Worth a Drive

  • Idra Novey will be reading at Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Massachusetts, on Wednesday, December 5 at 8:00 pm.

  • Also in South Hadley, Massachusetts, poet Eileen Myles will be reading at the Art Building at Mount Holyoke College on Thursday, December 6 at 7:30 pm.

  • On Saturday, December 8, from 1:00 to 4:00 pm, the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, will hold an open house to celebrate the poet’s 188th birthday. During this free program, visitors can tour the Homestead and The Evergreens at their leisure; enjoy holiday decorations and traditional music; decorate an ornament with a special birthday message; and, of course, enjoy coconut cake made from the poet’s own recipe.



Worth a Listen

Shari has been enjoying the Keeping a Notebook podcast by Nina LaCour. The episodes on writing are short, inspiring and thoughtful.

 

We're Looking Forward to These December Releases

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Calls For Submission and Upcoming Deadlines

The Hotel Vermont has asked the Burlington Writers Workshop to assemble a small collection of Vermont writing for young people to be available to guests in their rooms at the hotel. The hotel already features BWW writing for adults in all its guest rooms and would like to add work specifically aimed at children and teens. If you have work you are interested in submitting for consideration, please contact the Burlington Writers Workshop.

The Burlington Writers Workshop is seeking a writer/editor to write for their Opportunites & Announcements blog once a month. If you’re interested, please contact the Burlington Writers Workshop

Marble House Project is a multi-disciplinary artist residency program in Dorset, Vermont, that fosters collaboration and the exchange of ideas by providing an environment for artists across disciplines to live and work side by side. The three-week Artist Residency is open to artists in all creative fields, including but not limited to visual arts, writing, choreography, music composition and performance. Applications for 2019 residencies are open through December 16. The application fee is $32. For more information, please visit the Residency Applications page.

Bloodroot Literary Magazine is accepting submissions of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction for their 2019 Digital Edition through December 31. For submission guidelines, please visit the Bloodroot website.

The Frost Place is accepting submissions for their annual Chapbook Competition. The competition is open to any poet writing in English. The submission fee is $28. Submissions will be accepted through January 5, 2019. For more information, please visit the Chapbook Competition page.

Applications are now open for the Dartmouth Poet in Residence program at The Frost Place. This is a six-to-eight-week residency in poet Robert Frost’s former farmhouse in Franconia, New Hampshire. The residency begins July 1 and ends August 15, and includes an award of $1,000 from The Frost Place and an award of $1,000 from Dartmouth College. The recipient will have an opportunity to give a series of public readings across the region, including at Dartmouth College and The Frost Place. Applications will be accepted through January 5, 2019. For more information, please visit the Residency page.  

Every summer, the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, awards residency Fellowships to artists in seven disciplines, including literature. A Fellowship consists of exclusive use of a private studio, accommodations and three prepared meals a day for two weeks to two months. The deadline for the 2019 Summer MacDowell Literature Fellowship is January 15, 2019. The application fee is $30. For more information, please visit the Residency Application page.

The Juniper Summer Writing Institute in Amherst, Massachusetts (June 16-22) is now accepting applications. The institute includes manuscript consultations, craft sessions, workshops, readings, and other events, led by a wide range of instructors, including CAConrad, Gabriel Bump, Ross Gay, Khadijah Queen, Bianca Stone, Ocean Vuong, Dara Weir, and Joy Williams. The non-refundable application fee is $40. For more information and to apply, please visit the Juniper Institute website.


Upcoming Workshops and Classes

The Burlington Writers Workshop annual meeting will be held on December 2, from 2:30 to 5:00 pm at the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington, Vermont. All members are invited to attend. To RSVP, please visit the BWW website.

The League of Vermont Writers’ annual business meeting and winter writing craft workshop will take place at Trader Duke’s in South Burlington, Vermont, on January 19, 2019. For more details and registration information as it becomes available, visit the League’s Facebook page.

The New Hampshire Writers’ Project is hosting a Travel Writing workshop, led by author Dan Szczesny on the campus of SNHU in Manchester, New Hampshire, from 10:00 am to noon on January 19, 2019. Registration is $50 for NHWP members; $70 for non-members. For more information and to register, please visit the NHWP Workshops page.

Friday Reads - November 9, 2018

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Shari is reading the brilliant and intense Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.

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Rebecca just finished reading a great book last night, so is going to dip into two beautiful looking books that landed in her hands week: Denise Parsons’ novel, After the Sour Lemon Moon, and Joseph Massey’s chapbook, Present Conditions.

The Dipper - November 2018

"The Dipper" is our monthly newsletter, where we highlight readings, events, calls for submission, and other literary-related news for the coming month. If you have news or events to share, let us know

 

November News

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Want to hear some gorgeous music, listen to two fabulous authors read, take part in a conversation about the writing process, and stuff your face with homemade biscuits? Well then, look no further than our own Writers’ Process Night happening this Saturday, November 3 at Open Door in White River Junction, Vermont.

Join us, Laura Jean Binkley, Camille Guthrie, and Peter Orner, and a mountain of biscuits made by Literary North’s favorite baker and all-around fan, Dr. Hermann Puterschein. Scurry over to the Event page now and claim your seat at the biscuit bar! See you on Saturday!

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Slow Club Book Club members, have you started reading our final book of 2018 yet? If not, please don’t worry; you’re in fantastic company! At least one of your SCBC hosts hasn’t started either. And guess what? That’s just fine. October always seems to be a month when everything hits the fan at once. Between finally waking up from the summer drowsies and suddenly realizing that the end of the year crazies are nigh, this time of year is often overstuffed with deadlines, new projects, school meetings, and making appointments to get winter tires put on. Never fear… Sara Maitland’s A Book of Silence will wait patiently for you to dip in as you have time, maybe while waiting for those tires to be changed.

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It always feels a bit awkward to promote one’s own stuff, but if you can’t do it in your own newsletter, where can you? So this is just to say… Rebecca has written a science book about rivers for kids aged 7 to 10, and it's coming out later this month! Rivers and Streams! is part of a set of four “Explore Waterways” books published by the excellent Nomad Press in White River Junction, Vermont. It’s packed with really fun illustrations by the very talented Tom Casteel, and it includes 25 river-related activities. If you have a young person in your life who’s into science—or even one who isn’t yet into science—check out the set, or the many other wonderful non-fiction books for kids that Nomad publishes.

November’s Shooting Stars

A cool literary find from each of us to help light up your month!

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  • Tommy Orange’s review of Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah in The New York Times was fantastic. Here’s a snippet:

“Now more than ever I believe fiction can change minds, build empathy by asking readers to walk in others’ shoes, and thereby contribute to real change. In “Friday Black,” Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah has written a powerful and important and strange and beautiful collection of stories meant to be read right now, at the end of this year, as we inch ever closer to what feels like an inevitable phenomenal catastrophe or some other kind of radical change, for better or for worse. And when you can’t believe what’s happening in reality, there is no better time to suspend your disbelief and read and trust in a work of fiction—in what it can do.”

—Shari

  • I’m in a bit of a glum mood, what with the current dreary weather and the state of the world and all, so Emily Dickinson’s Patreon page in The New Yorker is giving me a welcome lift as I put the finishing touches on this newsletter. I’ll be scraping my shekels together to afford patronage at $100 a month (“I will tell you which parts of the Bible would be made better with bees. Plus all previous rewards.”) How about you? —Rebecca


November Highlights

On Friday, November 2, at 7:30 pm, GunSense Vermont, the Unitarian Church of Montpelier, and Bear Pond Books present “Bullets Into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence.” This event features Major Jackson, Matthew Olzmann, and Kerrin McCadden and takes place at the Unitarian Church in Montpelier, Vermont.

Ed Koren

Ed Koren

You have plenty of opportunities to catch cartoonist Ed Koren in November. He’ll be at The Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont, on Saturday, November 3, at 6:00 pm; at Phoenix Books in Burlington, Vermont, on Thursday, November 15, at 7:00 pm; at Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vermont, on Friday, November 23, at 12:00 pm for a book signing; and at the Norman Williams Public Library in Woodstock, Vermont, on Tuesday, November 27, at 6:00 pm.

On Sunday, November 4, at 3:00 pm, poet Sue Ellen Thompson is giving a lecture on “Marriage, Metaphor, & Mortality: The Poetry of Jane Kenyon” at BigTown Gallery in Rochester, Vermont. The lecture explores Kenyon’s lifelong struggle with depression and her marriage to fellow poet Donald Hall.

Also on Sunday, November 4, the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, will be dedicating the Colony’s Library to James Baldwin, who was a resident at the Colony three times in the 1950s to work on his books. The outdoor ceremony at 11:00 am will be followed by light refreshments.

Eugene Lim will be reading as part of the Cleopatra Mathis Poetry & Prose Reading Series at Dartmouth College’s Sanborn Library, in Hanover, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, November 6, from 4:30 to 6:00 pm.

First Wednesdays, a program of the Vermont Humanities Council, brings DeRay McKesson to Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, on Wednesday, November 7, at 7:00 pm to talk about politics and activism.

Catherine Lacey. Photo by Jesse Ball.

Catherine Lacey. Photo by Jesse Ball.

Catherine Lacey is at Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont, on Wednesday, November 7, at 7:00 pm, reading from her new short story collection, Certain American States.

On Tuesday, November 13, poet Kevin Goodan reads from his new collection, Anaphora, at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, New Hampshire. The reading begins at 5:30 pm.

Jeremy Holt visits Phoenix Books in Burlington, Vermont, on Tuesday, November 13, at 7:00 pm for his graphic novel, After Houdini.

Robin MacArthur will be at The Bennington Free Library in Bennington, Vermont, on Thursday, November 15, at 7:00 pm, in support of the paperback release of her fabulous novel, Heart Spring Mountain.

Kim Adrian

Kim Adrian

Poet Sidney Wade will be at the Fleming Museum of Art in Burlington, Vermont, for the Painted Word Poetry Series on Thursday, November 29, at 6:00 pm.

As part of the UNH Writers Series, Kim Adrian, author of the memoir The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet, will be reading at the University of New Hampshire, in Durham, New Hampshire, on Thursday, November 29, at 5:00 pm.

Visit our calendar for detailed information about these events and more!

 

Worth a Drive

Edward Carey visits The Odyssey Bookshop in Hadley, Massachusetts, on Thursday, November 8, at 7:00 pm to read from his new novel, Little, about Madam Tussaud. The event is free but registration is requested.

 

Worth a Listen

We're Looking Forward to These November Releases

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Calls For Submission and Upcoming Deadlines

The AVA Gallery in Lebanon, New Hampshire is looking for its next batch of true-life storytellers for its December 13 Mudroom event. The theme is “Holiday Disasters.” Storytellers of all ages and from all towns in the Upper Valley and beyond are welcome to submit their stories for consideration by November 23. In your submission, include a brief summary of the story (no more than 300 words) and a short bio (no more than 150 words). For more information and to submit your story, please visit the AVA Gallery’s Mudroom page.

Marble House Project is a multi-disciplinary artist residency program in Dorset, Vermont, that fosters collaboration and the exchange of ideas by providing an environment for artists across disciplines to live and work side by side. The three-week Artist Residency is open to artists in all creative fields, including but not limited to visual arts, writing, choreography, music composition and performance. Applications for 2019 residencies are open through December 16. The application fee is $32. For more information, please visit the Residency Applications page.

Bloodroot Literary Magazine is accepting submissions of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction for their 2019 Digital Edition through December 31. Submission guidelines are available on the Bloodroot website.

The Frost Place is accepting submissions for their annual Chapbook Competition. The competition is open to any poet writing in English. The submission fee is $28. Submissions will be accepted through January 5, 2019. For more information, please visit the Chapbook Competition page.

Applications are now open for the Dartmouth Poet in Residence program at The Frost Place. This is a six-to-eight-week residency in poet Robert Frost’s former farmhouse in Franconia, New Hampshire. The residency begins July 1 and ends August 15, and includes an award of $1,000 from The Frost Place and an award of $1,000 from Dartmouth College. The recipient will have an opportunity to give a series of public readings across the region, including at Dartmouth College and The Frost Place. Applications will be accepted through January 5, 2019. For more information, please visit the Residency page.  

Every summer, the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, awards residency Fellowships to artists in seven disciplines, including literature. A Fellowship consists of exclusive use of a private studio, accommodations and three prepared meals a day for two weeks to two months. The deadline for the 2019 Summer MacDowell Literature Fellowship is January 15, 2019. The application fee is $30. For more information, please visit the Residency Application page.


Upcoming Workshops and Classes

Do you have an interview project in mind but don’t quite know where to begin or how to proceed? The Vermont Folklife Center is offering an “Oral History: An Introduction” workshop that can help you move your project forward. The workshop will be held on November 3, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm at the Dorset Historical Society in Dorset, Vermont. Tuition is $95-$50. For more information and to register, please visit the Vermont Folklife Center Workshop page.

The pressure’s on if you’re participating in National Novel Writing Month, the creative writing project that challenges participants to write a 50,000 word manuscript in November. Take some of that pressure off with the free “NaNoWriMo Expressive Writing” workshop, lead by Joni B. Cole on November 5, at the Norwich Public Library in Norwich, Vermont, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. This workshop invites you to write from a prompt to develop a character….add a plot twist…or discover a scene that’s just been waiting to burst onto the page. For more information, please visit the Writer’s Center of WRJ Workshops page.

Looking for quality instruction, feedback, and inspiration in a beautiful Vermont setting? This half-day retreat on November 10, from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, offers all that and more. You’ll have the opportunity to share pages of a new or revised work for personalized feedback, learn tips and techniques to get started and stay motivated, and reap the benefits of gathering within a supportive creative community. Both nervous beginners and seasoned authors are welcome. Tuition is $115 and must be paid in full prior to the retreat. For more information, or to register (required), please visit the Writer’s Center of WRJ Workshops page.

NaNoWriMo too easy? Become a Centurion by earning 100 poetry, essay, or short-story rejections in twelve months. Lead by R. W. W. Greene, this two-hour workshop hosted by the New Hampshire Writers’ Project will “take you through the steps of submitting your work, the mystery of rejectomancy, and the best methods of recuperation from a ‘thanks but no thanks.’” The workshop will be held on November 17, from 1:00 to 3:00 pm, at The Ford House on the campus of SNHU in Manchester, New Hampshire. $50 for NHWP members; $75 for non-members. For more information, please visit the NHWP Workshops page.

Storytelling is a powerful tool for the documentation of voices, memories, and histories. It can also be a catalyst for activism and social change. In this “Storytelling for Social Change” workshop—held on December 1, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm at the Saint Albans Museum in Saint Albans, Vermont—we will explore the ethics and techniques of oral history, ethnography, and storytelling as activist research methodologies. Attendees will be invited to take a critical and analytical look at the history of documentary work, and will learn the basics of skills such as interviewing, story circle facilitation, and ethnographic observation. We will also cover the technical aspects of storytelling, providing an introduction to tools for minimal-resource and mobile audio recording. Tuition is $95-$50. For more information or to register, please visit the Vermont Folklife Center Workshop page.

Friday Reads - October 26, 2018

In anticipation of our Writers’ Process Night on November 3*, we’re revisiting our participating authors’ most recent books, which is only making us more excited to hear Camille and Peter reading and discuss their thoughts on the writing process.

*Haven’t bought your tickets yet? It’s not too late!

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The poems in Camille Guthrie’s Articulated Lair were written in response to the life and work of artist Louise Bourgeois (the book’s title comes from one of Bourgeois’ 1986 installation of the same name). The poems are sculptural themselves. They are concrete, with lines constructed of their own steel and marble, while also open to allow in light, reflecting the art, the artist, and the poet all at once. Simply beautiful.

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Peter Orner’s Am I Alone Here? is a fantastic collection of essays about reading and writing and being human that will appeal to rabid readers or anyone who just loves great writing. His essays wheel from funny to tender and everything in between. We love this book!