By Kenneth Gross, Lindsay Waters, V. N. Alexander, Paul Auster, Harold Bloom, Stanley Fish, K. J. Knoespel, Mitchell Meltzer, Victoria Nelson, Joan Richardson, Dorion Sagan, Susan Stewart, Eric Wilson, Michael Wood
A former employee of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Peter Michael Ketcham, who worked at NIST from 1997 until 2011, wrote this letter (below) to the editor of Europhysics News last week. NIST is the government agency tasked with investigating how the Twin Towers collapsed. Ketcham is calling NIST out for its failure to, well, investigate. I use the NIST report in Locus Amoenus, where I say it is, “nothing but fermented blend of preconception and irrelevance.” My hero Hamlet (whose father died on 9/11 and whose new stepfather worked for NIST) is furious when he discovers this, furious with himself, his stepfather and his mother, with everybody for being so easily hoodwinked. Here is Ketcham’s reaction: Continue reading
Locus Amoenus by Victoria N. Alexander centers upon the bucolic county seat of Amenia in upstate New York where Gertrude and her son Hamlet make their home after the horror of 9/11 deprived them of husband and father respectively. Seeking a new start in the rural quiet, Gertrude purchases a sheep farm where they intend to live a sustainable lifestyle butchering their own livestock, growing vegetables, and eschewing the material trappings and celebrity-devotion of the modern world. The Webutuck school district, where Hamlet attends classes, greet Gertrude’s healthy food campaign with suspicion and distrust; populated by overweight teachers overseeing equally rotund students, they are all fed on processed, Continue reading
Locus Amoenus, 9/11 novel by Victoria N. Alexander, has been nominated for the 2016 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Since 2007, the DLPP has awarded $10,000 each year. Previous recipients include, Bob Shacochis for The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, Junot Díaz for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and Francine Prose for A Changed Man. The 2016 winner will be announced in September.
WYBCX The Art World Demystified, Hosted by Brainard Carey
In this 45 min interview, VN Alexander’s talks with Brainard about why art is so important to learning, about the little-known “artistic” evolutionary mechanisms (other than mutation/gradual selection) that help create new species, about what the term “intelligence” in “artificial intelligence” means, about the difference between computer algorithms and poetic thinking –and lots more.
Next month, I will be talking to a group of anti-war activists about the role of literary fiction in undermining the bad narratives that prevent critical thinking. I look to my favorite political satirist, Mark Twain, as an example.
When Huck Finn ponders whether or not he should turn in his friend Jim, a runaway slave, he is deeply conflicted. Good Christian society of the day has taught him that slavery is sanctioned by God. Huck truly believes that to help Jim escape would be immoral. But he decides, “All right then, I’ll go to hell.”
It’s moments like this in literature that serve humankind best in its often-halting progress toward tolerance and peace. Throughout history, good, decent people routinely condone revenge, segregation, greed, fascism and war, simply because they follow those they admire most. Every era has its own peculiar blindness, and going against complacency and conformity can be more difficult than directly confronting tyrants themselves. It is often a disenfranchised voice, such as Huck’s, that awakens the literature of a nation, makes it more self-critical. Sometimes the voice needs an author—a humorist, a poet, or a good story-teller—to help him speak in a way that he can’t be ignored or further ostracized. Continue reading