Sunday, March 31, 2013

I teach, students decide

This anonymous student evaluation, essentially comparing me to a hallucinogen, is probably the best review I'll ever  receive:

You will find yourself at the end of the term, lying in bed, delirious from eight hours of sleep out of the last seventy-two, floating in a moment of clarity. A moment when everything he ranted on about -- bodies, liberation, time, entertainment, wit -- puzzles together. 


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Literary Journalism on Women at Work: A Too-Short List

Today I'm looking for literary journalism, or creative nonfiction, or lyric essays -- or mutant journalism -- on women at work. I'd like to add some of these pieces to a syllabus for a creative nonfiction course I teach at Dartmouth College called "Whose Story Is It?" For one section of the course, I want writing about ordinary people writing. Not memoir; writers going out into the world and trying to account for what they find. What they tend to find, when it comes to work, is men. There are notable exceptions, but not enough. So I'm making a list. It's very short so far. What can you add?

Katherine Boo, "Swamp Nurse"

Katherine Boo, "The Churn" (factory worker)

Leslie T. Chang, Factory Girls

Edwin Dobbs, "The New Oil Landscape" (dirty water hauler)

Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed

Wendy Ewald, Magic Eyes

Sonia Faleiro, Beautiful Thing (bar dancer)

Zora Neale Hurston, Mules and Men (hoodoo practitioner)

Sarah Jaffe, "Trickle-Down Feminism" (valuable critical essay on work)

Tracy Kidder, Among Schoolchildren (teacher)

Jeanne Marie Laskas, "Joy Ride" (truckers)

Jeanne Marie Laskas, "G-L-O-R-Y!" (NFL cheerleaders)

Sarah Leonard, "She Can't Sleep No More" (Silicon Valley)

Mac McLelland, "I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave" 

Tracie McMillan, The American Way of Eating

John McPhee, "Travels in Georgia" (biologist)

Susan Orlean, "The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup"

Jeff Sharlet, "The Rapture" (new age healer)

Jeff Sharlet & Peter Manseau, "Crestone, Colorado" (witch)

Diane Simon, Hair

Maureen Stanton, "Good Guys" (nuclear plant painter)

Sallie Tisdale, "We Do Abortions Here"

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Take Care of Your Teeth, Catherine Treyz, 2013

Every now and then a writing student delivers a paragraph so so simple but rich that it could be a short story unto itself. All the more remarkable given that my students are studying the nonfiction genre I call mutant journalism. Here's one from a student named Catherine Treyz, describing a bus ride to the next town over from Hanover with concision that'd be the envy of Ben Hecht:
The bus started and I opened a pack of gum. A woman turned around and told me, "Take care of your teeth. I lost mine during rehab--opiate addiction." Her lips formed what I perceived as a smile. Her bottom lip practically tickled her nose. She turned back around and re-entered the larger bus debate about the weather. Then a man bit into an apple. "Take care of your teeth," she said.

Small Town Mutant Journalism

I'm thinking of organizing my spring term course in creative nonfiction/literary journalism/mutant journalism around writing about a nearby town. So I'm thinking about some books for the syllabus, books about towns and small cities, books about people in a place that's neither rural nor urban nor suburban. Narrative, immersive work, not history or formal scholarship. Below is a list from my shelves. I'd be interesting in hearing recommendations, of books, longform narrative journalism, and documentary film.

"Kid Cannabis," Mark Binelli, Rolling Stone (via Jonathan Ringen)
Couer D'Alene, Idaho

"Escanaba's Magic Hours," Tom Bissell, Magic Hours
Escanaba, Michigan

Friday Night Lights, Buzz Bissinger
Odessa, Texas

Hometown, Peter Davis
Hamilton, Ohio

Dogtown, Elyssa East
Gloucester, Massachusetts

Cold New World, William Finnegan
New Haven, Connecticut

The Great Plains, Ian Frazier

Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene
McIntosh County, Georgia

"Dr. Don," Peter Hessler, The New Yorker (via Matthew Shaer)
Nucla, Colorado

"Midnight in the Garden of East Texas," Skip Hollandsworth, Texas Monthly (via Max Linsky)
Carthage, Texas

Mules and Men, Zora Neale Hurston
Eatonville, Florida

Home Town, Tracy Kidder
Northampton, Massachusetts

The Other Side of the River, Alex Kotlowitz (via Anna Clark)
St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, Michigan

"The All-American Bank Heist," by David Kushner, GQ (via Max Linsky)
Monroe, Washington

Wisconsin Death Trip, Michael Lesy
Black River Falls, Wisconsin

The Undertaking, Thomas Lynch
Milford, Michigan

"The Acme Corporation," Alec MacGillis, Harper's
Acme, Michigan

Class A, Lucas Mann
Clinton, Iowa

Blessed Assurance, A.G. Mojtabai
Amarillo, Texas

Dakota, Kathleen Norris

Down at the Docks, Rory Nugent
New Bedford, Massachusetts

The Right Side of the River, Roger Pinckney
Daufuskie Island, South Carolina

"The Heart of Football Beats in Aliquippa," S.L. Price, Sports Illustrated (via Max Linsky)
Aliquippa, Pennsylvania

Methland, Nick Redding
Oelwein, Iowa

"Looking for a Ghost," Wright Thompson, (via Matthew Hunte)
Alcorn, Mississippi

Killings, Calvin Trillin

"The Secret Sharer," JoAnn Wypijewski, Harper's
Jamestown, New York

"A Boy's Life," JoAnn Wypijewski, Harper's
Laramie, Wyoming


Brother's Keeper, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky
Munnsville, New York

Harlan County, USA, Barbara Kopple

My Winnipeg, Guy Maddin (via Anne Mette Lundtoffe)

Wisconsin Death Trip, James Marsh
Black River Falls, Wisconsin

Nimrod Nation, Brett Morgen
Watersmeet, Michigan

Roger & Me, Michael Moore
Flint, Michigan

Vernon, Florida, Errol Morris