Archive for the ‘To Join the Lost’ Category

Lebensraum

December 27th, 2018

My attitude about real estate development is summed up by the old joke about the Vermonter showing his flatlander cousin, up from New York for a weekend visit, around the family hill farm.  After climbing through woods, they reach a small meadow with an expansive view across the valley.  “Beautiful!  Great place for a house,” says the flatlander.  “Great place for a meadow,” says the farmer.

In my book To Join the Lost, a takeoff on Dante’s Inferno, while walking through the grove of suicides we encounter a real estate developer.  He’s hiding in a pile of used clothing, like a homeless street person trying to keep warm.  As we bid him good-bye, a pack of wild animals finds him and begins ripping at him with their teeth:  “something scorned exacted revenge.”  So much of the way we treat the land is ultimately self-destructive.  Sooner or later the meadow, and the wildness and beauty of which it is the placid seeming face, will have their way with us.

Other, more anthropocentric values are implicated, too.  Once in a while I receive a card or a latter in the mail from someone who’s canvassing my neighborhood looking for homes to buy and flip.  They buy it, they upgrade it, they sell it at a profit.  I write back and tell them that they are opportunistic scum, destroying neighborhoods with absentee ownership and artificially inflating property values so that housing is ever less affordable.  I tell them that what they are doing should not be legal.

Ken Schatz, Commissioner of Vermont’s Department for Children and Families, recently announced that homelessness is worsening in Vermont, despite all our creative policies and the millions of dollars we’ve poured into programs to address it.  (Ken, I hasten to add, is one of the best, most competent, conscientious, good-hearted, and hard-working public servants I’ve known.)  Homelessness is a multifaceted problem.  There’s not one single magic wand solution.  However, experience has shown that one of the major, most effective things that can be done about it is to – wait for it – put people into houses.  Yes, if people have housing that they can afford, they tend not be homeless.  One thing we could do to enhance the availability of affordable housing would be to discourage speculation in housing stock.  Mommy and daddy should not be allowed to buy a house for Biff or Buffy to stay in during their four years at UVM, with a view to either retaining it as a rental income property or selling it at a profit after the little darling graduates.  Colleges should be required to provide adequate on-campus housing for their students, so that the transient student population doesn’t eat up the affordable housing stock, driving up rents and depreciating the physical condition of the dwellings and the neighborhoods.  All forms of speculative investment in real estate involving housing should be subject to severe discouragement through confiscatory fees and taxes, calibrated so as to allow residents to upgrade the properties they live in while denying rewards to flippers and absentee owners.  Conversion of owner occupied properties to absentee owner rentals should be particularly strongly discouraged.  The point is not so much to privilege owning a house over renting it, as to combat the practice of treating a house as a profit center.

If we were in the midst of a famine, we would not permit speculative investment in staple foods to heighten scarcity and drive up prices.  Why do we allow this with housing?  People fill the homeless shelters and routinely exhaust the funding for emergency motel beds.  Families sleep through the winter in their cars.  A house isn’t just a financial asset.  We shouldn’t allow housing to be treated that way.  Homelessness is one result of something scorned, exacting revenge.

 

Mass action

April 7th, 2018

Now that Trump is sending National Guard troops to the southern border to fend off a threatening caravan of mostly women and children fleeing from gang violence, thereby showing just exactly how tough he is, we are being reminded from various media platforms that his predecessor and his predecessor’s predecessor took similar measures, albeit they were acting against drug traffickers and not against noncombatants fleeing for their lives.  I thought it might be relevant to quote some lines from To Join the Lost (which book, coincidentally, you may purchase at this website), describing a certain European head of state of seventy or eighty years ago:

Thousands of tiny

human forms composed his mass,

an assemblage of rococo subtlety

and power, limbs and torsos wrestling,

clenching, leaning, bending, stretching, grasping.

A muscle in his jaw twitched:

committees leaped.  He waved his arm: armies

marched.  Backs impossibly bent to

hitch his belt.  His stomach rumbled: they wept.  He

shrugged his shoulders: hundreds slumped with

relief – contortions Rodin might have sculpted.

Where to buy Among the Lost

November 3rd, 2016

I’ve received a couple of queries – stop fiddling with your cell phone and listen up, Jon Lonoff! I’m talking to you! – about where you can get a copy of Among the Lost for your very own. It’s distributed online at Amazon, Ingram, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iTunes and Smashwords. I don’t even know what some of those are. Once my web site is updated, you can get it from me, but that may take a little while. At this web site,you also can order copies right now of the previous volume in the series, To Join the Lost. My publisher, Fomite Press, is reissuing To Join the Lost, so you will be able to get it at all the venues I’ve mentioned, but that may take another month before it’s ready.

Yippee!

May 29th, 2014

fireworksI was going to title this post “Yahoo!” but that might have been misinterpreted.  So much of our language has been commercially appropriated.  Eat more kale, says I.  Anyhow… I am pleased and proud and tickled and relieved to announce that the second volume of my poetic trilogy, which revisits Dante’s Il Purgatorio in much the same way that To Join the Lost revisited L’Inferno, has been accepted for publication by Fomite Press, a publishing house after my own heart.  Visit their site and you’ll see what I mean.  The “relieved” is because I took some risks with this one, and they seem to have paid off.  Both of the editors who have read it so far have liked it enough to want to print it.  Projected publication date is some time in the first half of 2015.  So… if you haven’t bought a copy of To Join the Lost yet, now would be a good time to do so, so that you can be all read up and prepared when Goldfish Rising (or whatever we decide to call it) hits the streets!  You can get your very own copy of TJTL here; if you ask, I’ll autograph it for you.

It’s Spread to Europe!

October 27th, 2013

harp guyI am thrilled to announce that To Join the Lost now is available at Shakespeare and Company, the wonderful English-language bookstore in Paris.  Yes, that Paris.  They accepted a few copies on consignment when I was there last week.  It was a rainy afternoon.  I sat outside under the awning for about forty-five minutes afterwards, waiting for the drizzle to subside and basking in the thrill of having my book on those bookshelves.  There also was a pretty good view of a chunk of Notre Dame.

Shakespeare and Company is a place steeped in literary history.  Well, sort of.  A bookstore by that name opened in 1919 on the Left Bank.  Through the 1920s, expatriate American and British literati hung out there: Ernest Hemingway, Ford Madox Ford, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein. Its owner, Sylvia Beach, published Joyce’s Ulysses.  The original store closed in 1940, during the German occupation.  It never reopened, but a second store was opened in 1951 (the year before I was born) by George Whitman and it bears the same name; its current owner, Sylvia Beach Whitman, was named for the original store’s founder, and she has worked hard to maintain the same spirit and commitment to writing and writers that made the first store legendary.

I didn’t really expect my book to find a place there, and I am thrilled that it did.  But now I find myself in a bit of a quandary.  It is there on consignment.  That means, if it doesn’t sell out in the next six months (unlikely as that may seem) I need to retrieve the copies.  I don’t think I will be able to go back there so soon, although I dearly would love to do so.  There are items on the menu of Au Bascou that I haven’t tried yet.  I need a contact in Paris who can handle that for me (the book, not the restaurant) next April, if necessary.  Volunteers?

Hello, Lewiston!

March 30th, 2013

If you’re going to be in the Greater Lewiston-Auburn, Maine, Metropolitan Area the evening of April 26, 2013, and if you are not otherwise unbreakably committed by reason of social or business engagements to spend the evening elsewhere than the Lewiston Public Library, and if as a visitor to this site you have more than a passing interest in the wit and wisdom of me, you might find it well nigh irresistible to check this out.

Yes, I’m available to do readings!

February 6th, 2013

I’ve been involved in a nascent writers’ co-op, here in Burlington, and this past weekend we had our first public event.  I thought it was a grand success.  Apparently this reviewer thought so, too.  In case anyone was in any doubt, I am available to do readings at just about any venue – libraries, schools, theaters, stadiums, meadows, NASCAR rallies.  I promise you it will be a different kind of thing.  I might even bring along Dante himself!  Just contact me through this web site.  While you’re at it, you can buy a copy of the book.

Erratum

January 29th, 2013

To all of you who have bought a copy of To Join the Lost, I am sorry to report an error.  Page 178, line 1 should read “Archimedes” not “Aristotle.”  Can’t imagine how I let that slip through!  To all of you who have not bought a copy, what are you waiting for?  You can order one right here.

Kudo rabbit rabbit!

December 1st, 2011

In addition to exquisite taste in literature, Ted Lehmann seems to have a fine blog.

Kudodecimus!

November 29th, 2011

The Indextrious Reader joins the chorus.