concrete and wood


Literary Criticism Is Dead

Talking Writing, Winter 2014

Literary criticism has become irrelevant—the neglected lima beans on the cultural dinner plate. In order for criticism to matter, literature has to matter. It doesn't, and it won't again soon, at least not in the same way. Read more.


A Father, A Son, A Goodbye: Why Being Strong Should Not Mean Being Distant

The Good Men Project, December 2013

How can a son say goodbye to a father he never connected with? This is what I wondered as I watched my father lie on the rough white hospital sheets, his body wasted, his face a locked door. Read more...


Fiction: Empathy’s Best Hope?

 Talking Writing, February 2013
Like most of us, I'm a hypocrite. Let's start there. I consider myself a sensitive soul. An engaged citizen. I can also sit in a movie theater and happily chomp popcorn while fellow humans are shredded onscreen. Read more...


Risk Everything: Making Literature Matter in the 21st Century

Delivered at Chautauqua Summer Writer’s Program, July 2008

 Let's start here: we're all cowards, on some level. If we can agree to that, we can talk meaningfully about risk. Because risk is the flash point of desire and fear. Risk is where those to come together and drive apart. Read more...


The Light By Which We See

Delivered at Chautauqua Summer Writer’s Program, July 2006

A friend who's a youth minister in California wrote to me after reading my novel Blue Winnetka Skies. He wanted to tell me he liked the book—took a day off work to read it straight through because he didn't want to put it down—but wondered why I wrote so much about darkness, why my characters didn't find grace. Read more...