late May, I attended the Thomas Wolfe conference in Portland, Oregon; I served
as moderator for a plenary session. I was elected to the Wolfe Society's Executive
Board, and appointed editor of The Thomas Wolfe Review. It was my first visit
to Oregon, and I enjoyed it very much. I now understand why Carol Stevens wants
to live in Portland.
In late June, David and I went to Canada for the Lawrence Durrell Society meeting and conference held at the University of Ottawa. My paper was on "The 'Negro' in Durrell's The Avignon Quintet," and I also chaired a plenary session and presided over the business meeting and the banquet. We had a wonderful banquet speaker, the Director of the British Council in Canada, who recalled and embodied Durrell's satirical approach to life in the diplomatic corps. I was re-elected to a second (and final!) term as president of the Durrell Society.
Finally, in August we went to North Carolina for a wonderful family visit and our only non-working trip.
Anne would probably kill me, but heres a picture from our jet-boating experience in Montreal this June.
Bonnie Irwin, Ned Huston, David, and I, on one glorious June night in Chicago, after dinner at a Greek restaurant with saganaki (aka "pyromaniac's delight") being flamed so close we almost wished for protective gear, saw a splendidly staged TEMPEST at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre (our first visit to the Navy Pier, and we were mightily impressed), complete with flying spirits, music, and illusion that was well-nigh perfect. (Dave, whose training in Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre came partly from C.W. Hodges and J.L. Styan, noted their influence in the design and experienced a "homecoming" of sorts.)
Next day we visited the Field Museum for the "History of Chocolate" Exhibit, of which I can only say that if you're not a chocoholic when you enter the exhibit, you will be by the time you leave it. And that if anything can convince this generation and the next one to save the rain forests, the thought that without the rain forest canopy there won't be any more chocolate just might do it. The complex political issues involved in chocolate production, including the use, in some areas, of child labor for the cacao harvest, have us thinking much more carefully about where our chocolate comes from, and making our purchases, on the occasions when we do indulge, in what we hope is a more socially-responsible way.
Over a period of several weeks and with lots of help from neighbor and EIU Physical Education colleague Sheila Simons, I dug up and replaced our weedy and overgrown front perennial bed with a butterfly and hummingbird garden. The bergamot, buddleia, coreopsis, rudbeckia and company have, so far, been splendidly successful. There are ambitious plans in the works for the back yard as well.
As a symbolic kick-off to my sabbatical year, Dave and I gutted my study at home and re-did it, ceiling to floor. The project is nearing completion, and feng shui adherents will be pleased to note that the chi of the room is now excellent. We can only hope that mine will match it.
For our thirty-second anniversary, Dave and I went back to New Harmony, Indiana, our favorite weekend getaway, and let the eponymous peace of the place sink into and refresh our spirits. I visited family in Rochester, New York. We went to Chicago for another theatre evening, this time heading north along the lake shore to our favorite "off-Loop" theatre, Lifeline, to see an adaptation of Dorothy L. Sayers' WHOSE BODY, which was very well staged and seemed to us both darker and richer than the novel, Sayers' first.
And I read. And read. And read. And wrote. And plan to read and write much more. And to do some research-related travel, especially to the Four Corners area and the Navajo parklands, if things work out. Tell me again why I've waited twelve years to take a second sabbatical? But Given that nearly every day in the first week of the term has brought news of some hardship or loss for a colleague, the joys of this time of reflection and regeneration through research come at the price of considerable guilt for not being there to carry my share of the burden. My heart goes out to Frank, Bill, Julie and Tom, and Tim S., and anyone else who has had a rough time of it recently. You're in my thoughts daily.
A fine, fine summer, featuring two unforgettable trips: to Alaska for a week in June, to celebrate the solstice with our old buddies Casey and Amy Troy; and to Albuquerque in August, to join my Dad for an 80th birthday celebration that had morphed into an impromptu, wonderfully chaotic family reunion. Delegates from Virginia and Washington already had most of the beds, so we unfolded the pop-up camper in the back yard and had a great time. The best thing to say about Alaska is that were already dying to go back: spectacular scenery, lovely temperatures, and 22-hour days that seem to keep the visitor on an extended high. During our brief stay we saw a grizzly, a black bear, a golden eagle, two beavers the size of German Shepherds, lots of cariboux, and plenty of mooseincluding a momma
and two calves who visited the Troys neighborhood for a day and a half, bedding down right next to the bike path. Christy and Jay managed to squeeze their schedules and their budgets to accompany us on both trips, so our grandson, Ethan, is now an exceptionally well-traveled five month-old. The picture shows Dollie and me at the Exit Glacier near Seward, Alaska, on our first day, a few moments before the black bear went ambling by.
Oh yes, a story, Toys, was published at the Deep Outside Science Fiction web site in May. A narrative poem, Ridge Street, 1965 will be up at The Scream Online in October.
When I wasn't fighting
with the weeds, the heat, the poison ivy, and the ague down in Kentucky, I was
writing, mostly about my father and his experiences as a slave laborer in Germany
and as a Displaced Person in the US after the war. "What My Father Ate,"
which you'll find elsewhere in Agora, is from a sequence called "In the
Nazi Labor Camps." I also placed my poem "Lovers" at The Drunken
Can you say Llansfairpwllfwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch?
No, Im not making this up. There really is such a town with this name in Wales, perhaps the only town tourists visit to visit a word. You can even go in a store and stamp your passport to show youve been to Llans . This was one of our stops in Wales after our visit to Ireland. But let me back up. I spent five glorious weeks with 16 students and Dana and Renee Ringuette at Harlaxton College. Our subject was English and Irish Literary Landscapes, and we couldnt have chosen a better place to read Austen, Bronte, Yeats, Joyce, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Woolf. To describe even the highlights of Harlaxton Manor would require a lengthy essay, but here are some of the brighter constellations in memory:
I also stopped in Glasgow for three days to present a paper at an international conference Places of Exchange: Magazine, Journals, and Newspapers in British and Irish Culture, 1688-1945 held at the University of Glasgow. Alas, I did not get much writing done; at the beginning of the summer, I wrote a review of Critical Ireland for the James Joyce Literary Supplement.
From Michael SanFilippo, '99:
Hi John, thanks for checking in. I wish I had something creative to contribute to the department newsletter, but all the writing I'm doing nowadays takes place from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. It's terrible, but I just haven't been able to do any real creative writing in over a year, probably. . . On the rare times I think about it, it drives me crazy. I think the hardest thing for me has been that the material that most inspired me to write the time I spent living in Minnesota is getting more and more distant.
I've been "deputy editor" since the start of the year. Slight raise and lots more responsibilities, including some managerial. I oversee a staff of three writers, assign stories, plan future content, etc. It's cool. I'm just happy to have a job these days, with so many trade publishers cutting back. On the personal side, I'm married, I have a son, I own a 3-bedroom house in the suburbs with a 2-car garage and fenced-in back yard. I talk to millionaire CEOs on a daily basis and write about the economy to a conservative audience. I have trouble tapping into the hippie-social outcast-burnout-free spirit-freak-etc. that I was nearly 10 years ago, and which inspired me to write for so many years after. It's funny, sometimes I'll be in a meeting with a silver-haired, well-dressed well-respected corporate executive, I'll stare at him and nod as he talks about his company, and I'll think to myself, "if this guy only knew that I used to scour campus ashtrays for half-smoked cigarettes. . ." But it's getting harder and harder to write about those things. I don't know, maybe that's a good thing.
And now it's harder than ever to sit down and reflect on things to write about, due to a 5 1/2 month old gorilla named Benjamin Dean San Filippo. I've attached a picture of us. He's amazing, I'm completely retarded about him.
for letting me vent a little bit. And now lunch is over and I've got to
write about some candy company out in Utah. I'd better get into character.
Keep in touch.
Michael San Filippo
From Jennette McClain, '01
Hey folks! Remember me? It wasn't that long ago that I was forever creeping about the 3rd floor of Coleman with you all. I just wanted to send a quick note to let you know your hard work wasn't all for naught. After a long eight months scouring Chicago for a publishing position, I have finally been hired as an Associate Editor with Rigby Education, a children's educational publisher out of Barrington, Illinois. I never expected to be in children's publishing, but it's an excellent start. And I'm grateful to again be surrounded by thoughtful people who value language. So infinite thank you's to you all for your knowledge, guidance, and time. I hope all is well in the English department and that it continues to be the rich circle of creative, generous people that I remember.
Just a quick
note to say I made it to Purdue. Things are going pretty well here. Had
a week of composition boot camp, then classes started on the 19th. I've
been assigned 1/4 of a very
I just got through my first round of teacher evaluations this week. No one has asked me to clean out my 1/4 of the desk yet, so I guess things went ok. I'm actually enjoying teaching much more than I thought I would. I've got a good group of kids, although they WILL try to steer me away from rhetoric and toward football occasionally. (It's a strange class--about 85% male and 65% engineering majors.) They sucked me into ten minutes of talk about the Notre Dame "west coast" offensive tactics last week, but I can usually keep them under control. Tell all my former profs, "Thanks for helping me get here."
Back to grading and stuff.