Joan Didion’s greatest in-depth story?


Joan Didion

Trouble in Lakewood: How a once idyllic postwar town fell under the sway of a teen-age gang.
It’s misleading to say this is about gangs. Don’t let this summary of a Joan Didion story fool you. The story is really about how most people go through life asleep as trusting clogs in the giant machine: in other words it’s about why Donald Trump is president.
Astoundingly, the story is almost thirty years old. It’s as deep and good as journalism can get: great observation, great interviewing, great sourcing, great prose, great intelligence making the invisible visible.
It took me about 1-1/2 hours to read and it pulled back another dozen veils from my clouded eyes. It takes many discrete pieces and makes so many connections its prescience chills your toes. I would love to have taught this article in a magazine writing course. I did teach her “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream,” and it was a revelation to serious students.
Put this aside to read sometime when you’re thirsty for what great reporting and writing offers…not one word is out of place.

It’s not necessary to finish the work, but you must keep working…and playing

Ecclesiastes 12:12 King James Version

12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Sunday is National Dog Day

If Feeling Isn’t In It


“You can take it away, as far as I’m concerned—I’d rather spend the afternoon with a nice dog. I’m not kidding. Dogs have what a lot of poems lack: excitements and responses, a sense of play, the ability to impart warmth, elation . . . . ”  –  Poet Howard Moss


Dogs will also lick your face if you let them.
Their bodies will shiver with happiness.
A simple walk in the park is just about
the height of contentment for them, followed
by a bowl of food, a bowl of water,
a place to curl up and sleep. Someone
to scratch them where they can’t reach
and smooth their foreheads and talk to them.
Dogs also have a natural dislike of mailmen
and other bringers of bad news and will
bite them on your behalf. Dogs can smell
fear and also love with perfect accuracy.
There is no use pretending with them.
Nor do they pretend. If a dog is happy
or sad or nervous or bored or ashamed
or sunk in contemplation, everybody knows it.
They make no secret of themselves.
You can even tell what they’re dreaming about
by the way their legs jerk and try to run
on the slippery ground of sleep.
Nor are they given to pretentious self-importance.
They don’t try to impress you with how serious
or sensitive they are. They just feel everything
full blast. Everything is off the charts
with them. More than once I’ve seen a dog
waiting for its owner outside a café
practically implode with worry. “Oh, God,
what if she doesn’t come back this time?
What will I do? Who will take care of me?
I loved her so much and now she’s gone
and I’m tied to a post surrounded by people
who don’t look or smell or sound like her at all.”
And when she does come, what a flurry
of commotion, what a chorus of yelping
and cooing and leaps straight up into the air!
It’s almost unbearable, this sudden
fullness after such total loss, to see
the world made whole again by a hand
on the shoulder and a voice like no other.

Daisy, on the left, and her daughter, Ashley.


Roxy in repose

Jim Harrison, novelist, poet


“… Many of us can see our ends coming as in a dream. Under a tree in a meadow, or more likely, a car in the night, balling in the bathtub when drunk, sitting in a chair at the window and the world slowly disappears to music you’ve never heard before…”

–part of a poem from Dead Man’s Float

––Harrison died on March 26, 2016, in Patagonia, Ariz, while sitting in a chair at his desk working on a poem next to a window near a running stream.

Russell Lee


Russell Lee,  San Marcos, Texas.  March, 1940

Stanley Cavell, RIP


Stanley Cavell, 91, has died. He was my guide, along with Harold Bloom, into Emerson and Thoreau.  His influences included Wittgenstein, and Austin, and a range of popular mediums including photography, movies and music. He filled my life with a succession of essays and books as exciting and relevant as any written during the past five decades. A few tributes trumpeting his brilliance are listed below. If you don’t know his work, give him a look and you may  want to read more.

From the The New York Times, from the The New York Review of Books…Google Cavell’s books on Amazon. A lifetime of stimulating, human questioning of the big ideas, discussed in penetrating ordinary language, awaits you.




Gary Snyder on life…



“Three-fourths of philosophy and literature is the talk of people trying to convince themselves that they really like the cage they were tricked into entering.” – Poet Gary Snyder