Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Longtime friends know I'm an enormous fan of the on-hiatus band The Jayhawks. Hell, casual acquaintances know this.

Today marks the release of Jayhawks singer/songwriter/guitarist Gary Louris' first solo album: VAGABONDS. (Check out Gary's MySpace page for a sample.) Louris is an incredible songwriter, and after two listens to the new album, I can say it holds up to everything he's ever done. Pick it up--

Also, on the horizon: Louris and former Jawhawks singer/songwriter Mark Olson (I can't go into the history of that band, but there was a falling-out between these two, long ago) have not only reconciled, but have, apparently, recorded an album together. It's due out in a few months. If you remember the harmonies between these guys on songs like "Blue" (easily my favorite song Of All Time), you'll be as excited as I am to hear their new work.

In the meantime: VAGABONDS. Out now. Don't let Gary Louris remain the guy everyone refers to as "criminally unknown."

Famous Last Words

My good friend Katie Pierce--whose official poetry-writin' name is Catherine--has just seen her first book hit the shelves: FAMOUS LAST WORDS is now available at fine bookstores everywhere, or from Saturnalia Books. I can't even begin to tell you how good Katie's work is--please check it out!

New York, Reno, Mississippi

Hi, all--I've not checked in for a while, and apologies for that! It's been a busy semester here at school, though I got to sneak away to the AWP conference in New York early this month. Unfortunately I only had a day and a half in the city--nowhere near enough time to catch up with all my friends there, old and new--but I was able to have a reunion with several Ohio State profs, alums, and current students. I was also a member of a panel on the state of the short story, moderated by Andrew Scott; my copanelists were the inimitable Dan Chaon, the formidable Cathy Day--whose new book, COMEBACK SEASON, is just out, and terrific--and Cressida Leyshon, the very nice and very thoughtful deputy fiction editor for THE NEW YORKER. (Full disclosure: I'm someone who of course would someday like the be published in THE NEW YORKER, and who has in the past griped about its editorial decisions, but listening to Cressida talk about her role was...soothing, in a way. She's got a clear sense of her own vision, and also about the role her publication plays in defining contemporary literature. Good stuff.)

I'll be careful here, so as not to sling gossip in a public forum, but word has it a prominent editor, one whose decisions were questioned by one of us on the panel (not me!) was actually in the audience, and got up and left shortly after said comments were made. Aaand that's about it for controversy.

I'll be traveling a lot these next few months: in a week Steph and I depart for Mississippi, where our good friends Mike Kardos and Katie Pierce will host us for a reading at Mississippi State in Starkville. (See the post up above for news about Katie.) At the end of March we'll be in Indiana and Ohio, a trip centered on a reading at Indiana University East. And in April I'll travel to Cal State-Stanislaus for a reading as well. If there are strangers who read this blog in any of those places--I look forward to meeting you!