Friday, September 13, 2013

Back on the Blog

Well, my gosh, it's been some 3+ months since I put anything up here.  My last post dates in May of this year, and it's now September.

I think it's quite obvious that I've lost a bit of the taste for blogging.  Well, not just "a bit" but perhaps the most of it.

And I can't really put my finger on the reason why.  Maybe I've just wearied in general of the ideological and political fight that I've always thought as the the blog's purpose.   I do notice that I've also been much less engaged publicly in this fight even on other social media sites.

That doesn't mean that I've sworn off politics or that my views are in flux.  They're most definitely not.  I'm still as fierce a liberal as I always was.  And I still don't shy away from my convictions.  I just don't seem to have the desire to project them as publicly as I have done in the past.

In any case, what drew me back to the blog was more the idea of using it as a creative writing platform than as a tool of political/ideological propagandizing.

Maybe I should start with a brief update of my life since May.  I finished out the academic year at Tulane where I teach.  I prepared for and conducted a six-week summer study abroad program in Costa Rica.  And I returned to New Orleans to work on the slow and tedious job of painting the exterior of my house myself and to prepare for the start of the new academic year.  I also caught up a lot on my reading.  I've become a fan of the "Goodreads" application and program that allows me to chart my reading progress, so if you are really interested in following my reading habits in more detail, you can always check out my Goodreads profile, where you can even find my reviews on many of the books I've read recently.  For now, though, I'll just try to list the books that I've managed to get through over the past year.  (It also helps that I participate in 4 book clubs, which keeps me plugging along.)  Here is my list:

Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man (which is a re-read, and which I'm doing in a bookclub that involves me and my eldest daughter, who picked this book, and which she is still -- supposedly -- working on.)

Geraldine Brooks's March (which is part of my own literary crusade to work my way through Pulitzer Prize winners for fiction)

Earl Lovelace's While Gods Are Falling (which I read because one of the Ph.D. students in my department is doing his dissertation on Lovelace and so, having witnessed this student's enthusiasm for this Trinidadian author, I was drawn to give Lovelace a go)

Leonardo Boff's The Prayer of St. Francis: A Message of Peace for the World Today (which is the first book in a new "spiritual readings" book club that I organized with my two younger brothers.  I picked Boff's book because of my enthusiasm for the new Pope -- the first Jesuit Pontiff -- and his fondness for Boff on the one hand, and his choice of St. Francis as his papal namesake on the other hand.)

Alejo Carpentier The Kingdom of This World (as part of my participation in a longstanding book club that involves my wife and another couple)

Donald Cozzens's Notes from the Underground: The Spiritual Journey of a Secular Priest (which came recommended to me by my Maryknoll affiliates group, and which resonates with my own sense of place within the Catholic community)

Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow (which was Tulane's freshman book selection and for which I had to moderate a discussion in a Freshmen intro-to-college kind of course -- it's a fascinating and provocative explication on the racial dimensions of our current age of mass incarceration for drug crimes)

Candice Millard's Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President (for one of my other regular men's book clubs) -- it's about the murder of James Garfield and his life and times.

Phillip Roth's American Pastoral (another selection from my Pulitzer Prize winners for fiction, and which was my selection for the book club that involves my wife and another couple following the Carpentier novel)

Ronald J. Drez's Gallant Fighting Sons: The Jesuits, Louisiana, and Their School in New Orleans (which is a history of my high school and which, unfortunately, was a rather dreadful rendition that made my high school seem important only for its athletic achievements)

Richard Russo's Straight Man (which was just a random selection from my library that I had wanted to read for a long time and finally got around to doing)

Willa Cather's My Antonia (which was another random selection from my library that I had been intending to read for a while and finally pushed myself to read -- and which I liked a lot, by the way)

Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (which was my selection for the book club that involves my eldest daughter, but which she never got around to reading.)

Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (which is the first choice in the book club that I established with my youngest daughter -- actually, I'm still reading Through the Looking Glass, but I did finish Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)

Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time: First Movement (another selection for the men's book club -- this one was my choice)

Those are the books I've actually finished.  I currently am actively reading the following:

Gregory M. Colon Semenza's Graduate Study for the Twenty-First Century: How to Build an Academic Career in the Humanities (school related)

James J. Martin, SJ's My Life with the Saints (the second choice for the "spiritual" book club I participate in with my two younger brothers)

Warren Moore's Broken Glass Waltzes (a book written by a blogger/academic that I came to know by pure chance)

Roberto Bolano's The Savage Detectives (the latest selection for my men's book club)

Juan Gabriel Vazquez's The Sound of Things Falling (the latest selection for the couple's book club)

Michael Cunningham's The Hours (my Pulitzer Prize winner list)


I also plan to be writing more creatively -- both poetry as well as academic research.  And to the extent that I can, I hope to use this blog as a mechanism to spur my creative writing output.  In fact, in my next blog post, which I'll be putting up immediately after I post this, I'm going to upload a poem I wrote recently on the occasion of my youngest daughter's 11th birthday.  I'd welcome and appreciate any critical feedback or commentary on any of my creative writing output, so please don't hesitate to post some comments.  That's about it for now.  Peace.