Favorite characters…

Who are some of your favorite fictional characters?

What makes them so?

I remember thinking of Atticus Finch (when TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD was a relatively new book) as a real man I was eager to meet.  He didn’t talk down to children and took a case he knew he would lose.

At the moment, I’m re-reading JANE EYRE.  What a spirited girl Jane is as she stands up to the little bully John Reed and his imperious mother as soon as the novel starts.

What characters have made you notice and remember them?

Continued happy reading,



What makes a novel “good” to you?

some thoughts here–

a fully-imagined, created world

characters who become people to me

a plot that seems like life

not wanting the story to end and the simultaneous satisfaction of its inevitable ending




Nancy Gibbs’s piece in the July 11, 2011, edition of TIME  Magazine lauds the unscheduled days of summer some of us have been (and perhaps still are) able to enjoy.

I am filled with gratitude that writing and teaching writing, both within a largely academic calendar, allow me the best of both worlds–energetic engagement with students in classrooms and focused solitude in my jewel box of an office at home.  The opportunity to consider and reflect, to look for just the right word  (“apt and specific,” as novelist Rachel Basch has said), to lose myself in imagined worlds–1962 New Orleans or 1613 Venice–offers the same type of respite and regeneration as, say, a random walk among tall pines or a miles-long trek where water meets sand.  Even a Sunday morning in Manhattan in late July feels tantalizingly refreshing, so many having left the city for forest and shore.

So, I remind myself, carpe diem!  Hope you do the same.

Yours in July,


Check out an article about the “Camorra” in Naples, Italy…

Author Egon Donnarumma (joint degree student at Syracuse University College of Law and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs) opines about the financial, criminal, and international security influence of the group known as the “anti-state.”

You can read his essay in The National Strategy Forum Review:  An Online National Security Journal Published by the National Strategy Forum.

Summer 2011 Volume 20, Issue 3



On my reading list…

Reviewed in The New York Times Book Review on July 17, 2011, Maggie Nelson’s THE ART OF CRUELTY:  A RECKONING

Laura Kipnis’s comments have me awaiting arrival of the text.  It looks to be a thought-provoking exploration about authors’/other artists’ uses of violence and various attitudes about those uses.  A conversation starter, for sure, and a chance for writers to consider who/what/when/how we inflict purposeful pain in our own work.

Mille grazie…

Yesterday was the source of much inspiration, both personal and writerly, as some of our family spent a stunning day on the CT coast with talented, generous friends.  Amid platefuls of homemade delicacies from sea and garden, we discussed Donna Leon’s novels, some finer points of Italian grammar (grazie, Professore P.), and, surrounded by amici, watched the exploding lights in the sky over Groton Long Point.

Today I’m imagining how the fireworks’ display ignites/disturbs/dazzles the underwater creatures.

Summer reading…

highly recommended: 


If your goal is to physicalize a setting, this is the “textbook” for you!

Praise to Signor Scarpa for making this reader feel as if she is once again living in Venice.

Off to the beach to write today…