One of the pleasures of writing a book is making a joke that you unwittingly set up fifty pages earlier.

By Thomas Swick • Category: writing

writing holiday

02/22/18 09:05

During student introductions last night one young woman said that she was from France, here in Miami on vacation. And I thought: What a perfect way to spend one's vacation, by taking a travel writing course.

By Thomas Swick • Category: writing

I’ve become a fan of the Olympic News Channel, which covers all sports – not just those involving Americans with a chance to medal – and, in the same spirit, interviews athletes from various countries. It’s impressive (and humbling) to see how many of them speak English, and how well they do it. Though all of them, even the Americans, struggle with the inevitable question: What does this mean to you? I’m waiting for a gold medalist to say: “It means I’m the best in the world at this.”

By Thomas Swick • Category: sports

on Russia

02/20/18 09:22

Karl Ove Knausgaard’s piece on Russia in the Times’ magazine on Sunday was an interesting read – he’s an interesting writer and Russia is an interesting country (to say the least) – but it was more journalistic feature article than literary travel story. Which was both surprising (he’s a novelist) and predictable (he wrote it for a newspaper magazine). His itinerary was too well-planned (you could almost see him checking things – historic town, ancient woman – off a list), and even his chance encounters ended up as interviews (his word) and not the more fruitful conversations. I suspect he was hindered by his photographer and interpreter; you don’t get the spontaneity or one-on-one intimacy with a team that you do when you travel alone. Knausgaard tried to distinguish the piece through personal information (I don’t know if he’s addicted to nicotine, but he’s addicted to writing about his need for cigarettes) and sometimes overreaching profundities. Anyone interested in Russia – even contemporary Russia – would be better served by reading Colin Thubron’s Where the Nights Are Longest, published in 1987. You’ll learn very little about the author but his hyper-observant eye, his analytical mind, and his nuanced prose will illuminate the country.

By Thomas Swick • Category: writers

Thanks to the voices from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, Florida students are replacing in the nation's consciousness Florida Man.

By Thomas Swick • Category: Americans

In Warsaw’s Powazki Cemetery rows of simple birch crosses mark the graves of young people who died fighting for their country. On November 1st every year, thousands of Poles pay their respects, their faces lit by candle glow. I thought of them this morning when I heard on the radio the names and ages of the victims in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. Perhaps we should devote a section of Arlington National Cemetery to all the people who’ve given their lives in American schools – and offices, churches, airports, movie theaters, concert spaces. It would stand as a reminder not of their bravery - which in some cases was exceptional - but of our cowardice.

By Thomas Swick • Category: Americans