Novelist. Poet. Professor.

Novelist.  Poet.  Professor.
Novelist, poet, professor, and mother of dogs.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Dreaming of Firenze?

La Dolce Vita, Firenze-style
On Thanksgiving Eve, as I make cranberry relish, my grandmother's Italian-style stuffing, and Mississippi Mud Cake, I've been taking brief breaks between all the grating, mixing, and sauteeing to dip into The Stones of Florence by the inimitable Mary McCarthy.

See the underlining?  I made it in 1985, when I was just back from my first trip to Europe, a solo backpacking expedition that turned me into the rabid Italophile I've been ever since.  

Vespa showroom

Now I'm revisiting McCarthy's classic book as I choose texts for a travel-writing class I'm planning--a study tour to Italy that will run from June 28 to July 29.  We will be based in Rome, with excursions to Sorrento, Assisi, Pompeii, Orvieto, Capri, and, of course, Firenze!

Are you dreaming of Firenze too?  There's still space left in my class.  Any college student in a degree-granting program (graduate or undergraduate) is welcome to apply.  We'll be reading some wonderful travel memoirs, writing our own short travel pieces, workshopping, rewriting, and using Italy as our classroom.

For more information, visit the Saint Joseph's University Center for International Programs Summer Study Tour page. 

Study Tour faces from years past

Sunday, November 23, 2014

River Town Road Trip: St. Mary's College, Maryland

The Maryland Dove
My teaching and travels have taken up all my time lately, which is why it's been a while since I posted here.  I'm just back from my most recent trip, to St. Mary's College, Maryland's public honors college, in the gorgeous river town of St. Mary's City.

Leaving home is always the hardest part of any road trip. When Nico saw me packing my bags, he tried his darnedest to discourage me from going.

But once I got past my bodyguard, the trip was a breeze. What could be better than chatting about poetry and fiction with the spirited and bright students of St. Mary's?  I also gave an evening reading, and spent a lovely last morning with the College's Arts Alliance discussing poems inspired by fairy tales and myth.

And I was able to spend a little time exploring one of the prettiest campuses I've ever seen.  

In the distance, the sailing team practices maneuvers on the St. Mary's River

St. Mary's College is an especially hospitable place for poets and poetry.  In fact, the late, great Lucille Clifton taught there for many years, and her poems make welcome cameo appearances at every turn.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


A year a good today this handsome fellow became a part of our family.  In some ways it feels like we've only just adopted him, and in other ways it feels like he's been one of us forever.  Though he gets in his share of trouble, we can't imagine life without Nico.

Even Reuben, who was slow to warm to his new sibling, seems to like having him around 99.5% of the time.

Who, me?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Veterans Day Salute

Sound check on the Mall
No, I'm not in D.C.  I'm in bed, watching the Concert for Valor on t.v., thinking with gratitude of the veterans I've known.

First and foremost, my Dad, Edward Lindner, who served in World War II, at first in the Engineers' Corps, then in the big Red One, and finally as a sergeant in Company L, 16th Infantry Regiment, guarding prisoners in Hammelburg, Germany.  

Though he was a man of (very) few words, he did speak once or twice to me about his time in the army--of creamed chipped beef on toast (which he liked), of how much he enjoyed seeing Europe while on leave--Scotland, England, France, even Italy.  He never spoke about combat, though--not even to my mother.

I wish I'd asked him to tell me more about those days when I had the chance.

Thank you to all veterans for your service.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Still Precious: Chrissie Hynde at the Tower

At age 63, Chrissie Hynde is still a badass, still the reigning queen of cool.  So when our ticket taker at Upper Darby's Tower Theater informed us that Chrissie had requested we not take cell phone photos at her show, I wasn't about to risk pissing her off.

photo lifted from The Tower Theater Facebook page
Andre and I have been looking forward to seeing Chrissie and the Pretenders for a long time.  More years ago than I care to count, we saw them with a bunch of our college friends from the front few rows of the University of New Hampshire field house.

The band was incredible.  I was nineteen, surrounded by friends, seeing a band we all loved more or less from the front row.  The good vibes are basically all I remember.

Original lineup circa 1989 photo by Fin Costello

 Fast forward to 2014. The show began with new material--all of it top-notch--from Chrissie's Stockholm album.  

I'm happy to report that Chrissie Hynde still has one of the most distinctive and expressive voices in rock.  Not to mention her commanding stage presence.

But as great as the new material is, I'll confess my favorites were all the old punk standards I've loved since college: "Tattooed Love Boys," "My City Was Gone,"  "Talk of the Town," "Message of Love," and this gem:

Chrissie Hynde rocks as fiercely as ever.  That said, her performance and persona have gained a welcome dimension of warmth and humor I don't recall from the early years, though as we've already established, my  memory's not that sharp.  

I left the show determined to sign on for more concerts by Women of the Eighties Who Rock.  I hear Lena Lovich is staging a comeback tour.  

Who's in?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

November Odds and Ends

Though my season of ceaseless book signings is behind me, I do have one more very special (to me at least!) event planned.  I'll be signing copies of Catherine and Jane at Saint Joseph's University (where I teach) on 11/11 at 11 a.m., in the bookstore.  If you live in or near Philadelphia, consider dropping by.  (Luckily, there's free retail parking behind the bookstore.)

Also, as the release date for Love, Lucy approaches, I've been busy putting together the playlist of songs that Lucy would have heard on her travels through Italy.  That playlist will be featured on a book blog near you, as the amazing Alexis and Ashley of With Her Nose Stuck in a Book are planning a musical Book Blast closer to the release day (January 27, 2015).

Rock Star Book Tours has also got something special planned for Lucy's debut: a book blast about how the novel was informed by my own misadventures backpacking solo through Europe at age 22.  I might have to dig up some embarassing old photos to toss into the mix.

 Like, say, this one:

Just don't ask me to explain what I was wearing.  It was the Eighties, and I'd been living out of a backpack for two months, but neither of those facts can really explain those pants.

Desperately Seeking Style: What I Wish I'd Been Wearing 

Also, thanks to the blogs--including Reading Books Like A Boss--that have been featuring Love, Lucy in their Waiting on Wednesday posts.  The wait is almost over!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

From Asbury Park to Ardmore: Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes

Though my favorite hobby is taking off to Asbury Park at a moment's notice to catch a show at the Stone Pony or Asbury Lanes or the Wonder Bar, I've always felt like something of a poser when it comes to the Jersey Shore Music Scene.   Why? Because I'm a relative newcomer to the scene.  Because I have never actually lived in Jersey or even summered on the Shore.  And, most of all, because I've never seen Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.

Until a few weeks ago, that is.

Southside and the Jukes played the Ardmore Music Hall, a quirky little venue just fifteen minutes from our house, and this time we were there, in the front row.  

Everything about the show was fun and so familiar to anyone who loves the Asbury Scene, probably because Southside IS the scene.  He was one of the handful who helped invent it. 

Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny (photo courtesy of Billy Smith and BruceBase)
To anyone who loves the Jersey Shore sound, seeing Southside and the Jukes is like a homecoming.

There are the horns.

And the setlist, which included familiar songs like Just Walk Away Renee, All the Way Home, The Fever, I Don't Want to Go Home, and Trapped Again.

There's the sense of community--the hardcore fans who follow Southside from venue to venue, but who are more than welcoming to a couple of newcomers.

And then there's the audience participation.  The show ended with Sam Cooke's "Having a Party," and I even got to sing a verse with Southside.  I only wish I had some photographic evidence of that.  

But since I don't, here's a live version from 1978.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Reading Poetry in Bed (With Cold Rain, Potatoes, and a Poem by Mekeel McBride)

Crimson leaves, gray day
On this day of ceaseless, cold rain, I'm ignoring the housework that needs to be done in favor of something much more important: reading poetry in bed.  

First I devoured Trespass, the debut collection from a young poet named Thomas Dooley.  Thom was my student--already a confident and promising writer--way back in the first poetry workshop I taught at Saint Joseph's University.  
The manuscript that became Trespass was chosen by Charlie Smith for the prestigious National Poetry Series, and soon Thom will be visiting us at St. Joe's, taking a victory lap, and reading his poems to our current crop of promising young writers.

Tresspass is a brave and beautiful book, and I'll say more about it here when Thom comes to visit later in November.

My other book du jour is Dog Star Delicatessen, a new and selected from Mekeel McBride, my own very first poetry professor.  

Mekeel's poems are very much like she was as an instructor--warm, playful, always on the lookout for happy accidents, able to find the poetic in unexpected places--in slips a radio announcer's tongue, in discarded produce boxes that happen to bear her grandmother's name, in boaty pink Cadillacs and the death of a pet goldfish.

And in the humble potato, be it mashed, fried, baked, or still growing silently underground:

The Truth About Why I Love Potatoes

For Sarah Apt


Of everything you get for dinner
they’re the most fun to play with:
gravy lakes soaking deep into the soft white Alps
of the mashed ones; French fries good for fences
to keep your fork safe from Lima beans;
the baked ones perfect for pounding down 
into pancakes from the moon.


I guess I forgot to mention how much I used to love
globbing mashed potato into a ball then hurling it
at my brother so it seemed he was the one
who had made the mess. Now grownups 
do the same thing, too, but usually not with potatoes.


If a potato were able to turn into a person,
I’m almost certain it would be someone you’d like
for a friend. It could teach you to understand 
the language of animals who live underground:
worms and woodchucks, foxes and bears.
On rainy Saturday afternoons, it would take you
to funny movies. When you were feeling sad, 
it would remind you of the good things 
you’d forgotten about yourself.


There might be dozens, even more, in the garden,
without you ever knowing, fat moons blooming
a secret night sky right under your feet.


If I could have my wish, I’d want my poem
to be just like a potato. Not afraid of the dark.
Simple and surprising at the same time.
You’d have to dig a little to get it but then
you’d be glad you made the effort. And maybe
after you were finished, something in you
that had been hungry for a long time
wouldn’t feel so empty anymore.


I'll be teaching Mekeel's book soon in my current undergrad poetry workshop, and I can't wait to give my students this assignment:

Write a poem entitled "The Truth About Why I Love X" with X being something completely unexpected and generally overlooked.  

Free the Mice!

  Thanks to Bearings Online , for publishing my poem about trying--and sometimes failing--to be kind to the mammals who only want to sha...