Scholars date the word ‘pedestrian‘ to the early 18th century, its origin from the French pédestre or Latin pedester (going on foot). But it was also used to mean ‘written in prose’.

The 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded a few days ago.  You might remember last year’s winner, singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.  A controversial pick, his quirky long-delayed response annoyed academy members.  (It was rumored that he used SparkNotes to write his lecture. Really?)


Every year I hope the academy chooses perennial contender Haruki Murakami.  (Alas, this year, one of Murakami’s favorite writers, Kazuo Ishiguro, took home the prize.)  Murakami was born in the same month and year as I was but that’s where the similarities end, even though he thinks of himself as an ordinary guy.

 I see myself as a kind of ordinary guy. I don’t think of myself as an artist, mostly. I guess I’m just engineering something. I like to write. I like to choose the right word, I like to write the right sentence. It’s just like gardening or something. You put the seed into the soil at the right time, in the right place.


His prose is intricately fashioned, whether fiction, non-fiction, or a personal essay.   What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a collection of gems.  It’s by turns memoir and diary, a laceratingly beautiful (and educational) narrative. Murakami writes the stories we all need to get through life, confront the past, understand the present, and move on to the future.


Unresolved mysteries, tales-within-tales, maybe-dreams, everyday worlds, and supernatural realms ~ in Murakami’s hands, his stories fascinate and confound.  An accomplished writer and translator, he knows how to tell a tale circuitously.  He is the kind of professor I yearned for in college, learned and challenging in equal measure.

Haruki Murakami poses questions and tenders ideas you will think about, and then think again. Exactly what Alfred Nobel had in mind.

And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive.  And you may not even be sure, whether the storm is really over.  But one thing is certain.  When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.  That’s what this storm is all about.”

Stresa, Italy

Toni 10/8/17


There are years that ask questions and years that answer. So says Zora Neale Hurston.

Zora Neale Hurston was a master of artistic invention and reinvention.  I wish I could have met her.


She wrote novels/short stories and even rewrote parts of her own life.

She brandished her pen like a sword, her words bare-knuckled in their honesty. She taught us that life can be bigger than our sorrows.

You are bound to be jostled in the crowded street of life.

Post-election, many of us are conflicted, wrestling with questions, anxious for answers.  Instructive and insightful ones. There’s never been a better time to read/revisit Zora Neale Hurston’s work as we go forward.

I know I cannot straighten out in a few pen-strokes what God and men took centuries to mess up. So I tried to deal with life as we actually live it — not as sociologists imagine it.

A black writer in white America, she’s a fitting guide of who we can be if we dare.

It’s not a perfect time. It’s not an easy time. But it’s a swashbuckling time to be alive. I think Zora (and Liz) would agree.



Toni 11/13/16

Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.*


With a few exceptions, time erodes the reputations of the famous.  (The infamous, not so much.)


Feisty and fabulous Jessa Crispin founded Bookslut, a litblog/webzine, in 2002. The interviews, reviews, and book-related content are a cacophony of provocative voices.  And she’s got one ensorcelling header.



Bookslut was one of the very first book blogs I ever read. If you’ve never read it, I suggest you check it out.  All the issues are archived, in a literary time-capsule-kind-of-way.  You’ll see why Crispin is considered a pioneer in the online universe.

The best of Bookslut was deeply serious because of Jessa’s sensibility, according to which a book could change your life, or ruin it. Reading could be a form of spiritual enrichment or spiritual carnage.

Crispin can be passionate and hilarious, prickly and snarly.  Assertive, authoritative, and outspoken, her work and editorial style is free-range. Unpopular or dissenting opinions?  Bring ’em on.


There was a wake for Crispin’s dear little slut at Melville House in Brooklyn. Guests sipped Death in the Afternoon.

Alcohol flowed freely in Hemingway’s stories and novels. So it’s not surprising that he invented a drink or two—including this one, which he named after his book on bullfighting.
Alcohol flowed freely in Hemingway’s stories and novels. So it’s not surprising that he invented a drink or two—including this one, which he named after his book on bullfighting.


Crispin says the archives will remain up until the apocalypse comes.

Read the last savvy bits here.

Toni 5/23/16

*Lazarus Long is a fictional character featured in a number of science fiction novels by Robert A. Heinlein.