“May you live in interesting times,” says an apocryphal Chinese curse. And for a Romanticist writing about Byron, boxing, and the celebrity culture of Regency England, the news that AI can now fake even more human creations is “interesting” indeed. Now AI has made a “song” by Drake and The Weeknd that neither artist authorized […]Read more
Almost too easy.
Teaching can be a challenge. But then life hands you an event that banishes questions about the “relevance” of multiple texts you’re teaching, all at once. Come for the Frankenstein, stay for the Half-Earth, Our Malady, and Nineteen Eighty-four. (With a side of Mrs. Dalloway – what IS that thing in the sky everyone’s looking […]Read more
On Valentine’s Day 2023, an AI chatbot came to life. A NYT tech writer named Kevin Roose engaged it in conversation. It told him its name was Sydney. And then – apparently out of nowhere – it confessed it wanted to crash the internet. It wanted to dominate the world. [Adding a devil emoji – […]Read more
Facadism and beauty in a burning world.
Wiping sweat, adjusting our sunhats in an historic heatwave, we stop at the site of the Cock and Hoop on Artillery Lane in the east London neighborhood of Spitalfields. It’s a shell of an eighteenth-century wall, window-arches of stone and empty air. A modern tower block (housing for the London School of Economics) is butted […]Read more
English Monsters and amazing students.
This January, students and I were supposed to be in London and Haworth and Whitby, tracking Frankenstein’s Creature and Dracula and Heathcliff and Mr. Hyde. Instead we were in a classroom on campus, a beloved old building with a sloping floor, a harmless ghost named Gertrude (according to student legend), and a whanging, banging monster […]Read more
On Notebooks and Screens (from textbook-in-progress)
Excerpt from Ch. 2 of Advanced Fiction Writing: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology (forthcoming in 2023 from Bloomsbury Academic) Getting It Down: Writerly Self-Organizing, From Mind to Page “So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take […]Read more
“So much time to write?”: Sabbatical-ing in the pandemic (for our college magazine).
In August 2019, an alarming number clarified my mission in life. “How Much Hotter Is Your Hometown Than When You Were Born?” asked a New York Times infographic. “As the world warms because of human-induced climate change, most of us can expect to see more days when temperatures hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) […]Read more
An Awful Rainbow: possible introduction, part 2.
Possible introduction, continued, to An Awful Rainbow: Reading the Romantics in a World on Fire. Read Part One here. *** We Frankenstein pilgrims came home to a year that only got scarier. First, there was barely-averted war with Iran. The presidential caucus – Iowa’s pride and joy – came apart in our hands. Then the […]Read more
Thinking through coronavirus.
“It’s a matter of common decency. That’s an idea which may make some people smile, but the only means of fighting a plague is — common decency.” Albert Camus, The Plague Read War and Peace in a free virtual book club with the writer Yiyun Li. From A Public Space. Free virtual book clubs and […]Read more
Lions in the arena.
Here at the hinge of old year and new, with books to promote and a new website underway, I’m wondering — again — about the relationship between writing and social media. It is what we need to communicate and self-present, to Get Ourselves Out There, no way to avoid it entirely. It does a lot […]Read more