Thursday, December 31, 2009

Writing Furiously

I'm working on my book, Hamden: Tales from the Sleeping Giant, over break. Sitting at my computer for 5-6 hours a day isn't exactly "vacation," but I'll live. I just finished gathering and organizing the photos. Above is a photo that didn't make it into the book - Eli Whitney's blacksmith shop.

Taking thousands and thousands of words of research notes and shaping them into cohesive chapters is certainly a different type of work. My scholarship on Henry Miller (and Sherlock Holmes - I have another essay accepted!) has certainly helped me prepare for this. But it's a combination of that and my travel writing...turning research into something people actually want to read, giving it life, choosing the memorable details, while still staying true to the facts of the situation.

It's a daunting task, and one I take seriously. What is more important to write than history? There is so much revisionist nonsense out there, and I often hear people making the most outrageous claims about history because of it. Only by going back to the primary sources (and sometimes not even then) can you see how these sorts of lies get told over and over. So, keeping to the facts while still making a story that appeals is a fine line to walk. I'll do my best.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Hey, I said I didn't want this to turn into a food blog, but I had to post a picture of our latest experiment - pickling. So far so good...the pickled leeks and cucumbers are tasty. Tonight, the spicy pickled cabbage (kim chi w/o the fermentation).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Xmas Time Again

Its holiday time again.

Time for children playing with toys...

Time for eating giant birds...

Time for snuggling on fleece...

Merry Xmas! Happy Hanukkah! Joyous festivus! Beneficent Saturnalia! And a crackling good Yuletide to all!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Favorite Restaurant

I'm not going to turn this into a food blog. But since I just received the Momofuku cookbook for the 1st day of Xmas (or of Hanukkah, if you like), I have to give a shout out to this place. Of course, it doesn't need any shouts - David Chang is wildly succesful, and getting a reservation at Momofuku Ko is impossible. But I've been to Momofuku Ssam, and Milk Bar, and no joke, this is some of the best food I've had. Now, I've been to some great restaurants, like Le Saint Amour in Quebec City (amazing) and L'Escargot in Paris, but they are EXPENSIVE restaurants. Momofuku Ssam is totally affordable and has an atmosphere of casual quality that belies the myth of "fine dining." Check it out for yourself below.

I've already experimented with his kimchi stew at home, and it was a revelation. I can't wait to slow roast a pork belly...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bobcats and Black Snakes

Amy and I revisited a spot from my recently published essay, "The Birds and the Silence." This is the boulder I sat on when the bobcat appeared, before "I walked down the hill and into the summer of my life."

While hiking on High Rock, we found another possible dream house to live in someday. (2010?) We have also hit on something that is going to push my career into overdrive. Look for big changes in the New Year. For now, no peeking!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sleeping Giant Park Association Xmas Party

Today was the annual Sleeping Giant Park Association Xmas hike and social. The fellowship was strong, the hike was brisk, and the cider was mulled.

Amy and I had a wonderful time meeting new friends, and enjoyed the sing-along after cider and cookies.

Although I've lived in Hamden for over a decade, I never joined the Association for hikes before. I guess I was a bit of a loner. But now it feels good to have others to hike with on the slopes of the Blue Hills, Hobbomock, the Dead Indian, Mount Carmel, the Sleeping Giant, call it what you will - it is home.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Nomad's End

My wife, poet Amy Nawrocki, has had her second book of poetry accepted by Finishing Line Press. It will be out this Spring. Everybody say "hey!"

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Round Table

As you can see, the author's 'round table' I participated in at Fairfield Borders Bookstore was neither round nor table. In reality, it was a gathering of authors, designed to bring out the maximum number of fans. The ploy worked, since many people came out to see (probably) Marie Bostwick, Litchfield author and New York Times bestseller. But they left buying my book, too.

I had a great little discussion with all the authors there, and particulary with a British expat who had flown with the RAF in World War II. His name currently escapes me, but I'll remember it when I get his signed book for Xmas.

Thanks to all who attended! This was my last "public" appearance this autumn, though I also just appeared on Bridgeport Now, and will be doing several 'private' appearances for local groups coming up in December and January. By then the Hamden book may be finished and the next round will soon begin. The author's life is a busy life.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Ghosts of Remington Arms

I'm not a huge fan of Ghost investigation programs. However, this week's episode of Ghost Adventures is at the Remington Arms. Check it out Friday at 9 pm on the Travel Channel!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hamden Historical Society Antiques Show

Amy and I volunteered to work the kitchen last Saturday for the Hamden Historical Society Antiques Show. We had a lot of fun and hope to do it every year.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sixth Sense

Okay, I try not to simply post everything I see on the web. I watch these TED lectures all the time and see wonderful stuff happening in both the world of ideas and the world of invention. But this is "jaw-dropping" new technology, developed by a 28 year old grad student at MIT named Pranav Mistry. Earlier he developed intelligent sticky notes, etc. There is an April lecture by his MIT professor, as well, which highlights some of the stuff. But this new one is better.

The embed function isn't up yet, so click here to be taken to the TED site.

This invention/development could be the next revolution, akin to the personal computer revolution or the internet. I'm completely blown away. What is most amazing to me is that all the component parts make sense to me, but I never would have thought to put them together (nor would have had the technical skill to pull it off, obviously). This is the heart of invention. When Eli Whitney began the American Industrial Revolution here in Hamden, Connecticut, he was merely building on what others were doing, and taking what others had done and applying that in a new way.

What can YOU see that others cannot?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Eating Babka

Or Babovka, or Bovka or however it is spelled in your language. Here it is explained by Amy Nawrocki at her poetry reading, "Fishing Rods, Kitchens, and Vincent Van Gogh."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Published in The Port

The Port is a new web-zine, as they used to call them, focusing on the fair city of Bridgeport. Eva Liptak is the primary editor, and her mission is just - to improve the cultural scene here. So, of course I contributed. You can read my story here.

My lovely wife also contributed a poem about Seaside Park.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Grand Rapids Literary Review Interview

A couple years back I was interviewed by the now defunct Grand Rapids Literary Review. Some of my answers would be a bit different now I think. Nevertheless, below is the fruit of that encounter.

GRLR: Tell us about “making a life as a writer.”

EDL: Well, like everyone else, I started out believing I was a writer just because I thought about it a lot, scribbled a few bad poems, and had some fancy critical opinions. But it really hasn’t been until the last few years that I have become an enormous funnel through which my personal life, my reading, my teaching, and everything else flows in, and writing flows out. When a story or poem or essay is published, I become an “author” – and possibly in the future will make a “living” as a writer. However, that’s only a bonus.

GRLR: Do you have any books out right now? IF so, how do you feel about them? If not, are there plans for a book in the future?

EDL: I have completed work on four books, and one of them is being seriously considered at a publishing house right now. It is called Afoot in Connecticut, and is a non-fiction narrative about hiking in my adopted state. It is also probably my favorite of the completed work, though I’m working on two more right now that I might eventually like better, a historical novel and a travel book about wine-tasting.

GRLR: How do you balance teaching with your own writing?

EDL: That’s a constant problem. Teaching is in some ways the perfect career for a writer, because of the constant input it provides. However, I usually teach extra classes, up to twice the normal professorial load per year. This obviously cuts into writing time. I still manage to have a strong level of output (according to my other writer friends), but only because I am somehow able to steal segments of writing time throughout my day. I think that doing this is a matter of commitment to the practice and craft of writing, but I have been told that it is actually “insane.”

GRLR: What would you tell to others who want to devote their lives to literature?

EDL: I think that everyone’s life should be involved with literature, with telling and listening to stories, with the wonderful dialogue of writers and thinkers that goes on around us, but then again I’m a teacher. To really devote oneself, though, in the way that people are “devoted” to Elvis, is something I recommend only for the few. You must read, read, and read some more. But devotion is not only input. You must create conversation by sending your thoughts out into the world.

GRLR: What has been the most satisfying moment of your writing career?

EDL: That’s an easy one. A student in Saskatchewan emailed me and told me that she was doing an essay on one of my poems, and if I could please send her a little about myself to use in her introduction. I had received feedback before, but this was different. Someone was not only responding to my poem, but talking about it. Suddenly I realized that my work was “out there” and had become part of the great story.

GRLR: If you were on Death Row, and could have one last meal, what would it be?

EDL: This question made my tastebuds argue with each other. I thought about a basket of my teenage favorite, buffalo wings, since the indigestion wouldn’t matter, would it? But there was a large tastebud contingent that argued for a more high-end meal, with a glass of Rothschild wine and some sort of roast duck. I suppose that death brings out the carnivore in me. In a vegetarian world, I would go for some homemade macaroni and cheese and roast leeks.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Anniversary in the Gunks

Ah, sweet relaxation! So seldom dost thou visit me!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New England Independent Booksellers Association

I was a guest of the History Press at NEIBA this year, signing books for interested booksellers. I had a great time talking to my editor, Saunders Robinson, and publicist, Lara Simpson.

Of course, my greatest happiness is that my book was chosen as one of the five to be on the History Press Banner. Thanks, guys!

Monday, October 26, 2009

On WPKN yet again!

I was interviewed by phone on WPKN last Friday morning (WPKN Mornings With Doug Echols). They mention my book throughout, but I am interviewed during the last half hour of the 3 hour show, HERE. Amy listened to it and says that I did well, but you better judge for yourself.

They are offering my book, signed to you personally, for a $40 contribution to one of the only truly independent radio stations in the country.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bridgeport Green Expo

I had a table at the Bridgeport Green Expo last Wednesday from 10-4 at the Barnum Museum. I met some really nice people, including Mayor Finch, who told me he is slowly reading my book a few pages at a time, and likes what he's reading. 9 other people bought my book, and many had it already. Good news!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Birds and the Silence

Yet another publication! One of my chapters from Afoot in Connecticut (my as yet unpublished paean to the beauties of natural Nutmeg) has been published in Magnolia: A Florida Journal of Literary and Fine Arts. In fact, my piece is the only prose piece in the journal. Enjoy this reflection on why I (and maybe you) like the high places of the world, even in relatively lowland Connecticut.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Twenty Four Hours of Reading

Friday to Saturday we had the 24 hour readathon for the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read. We had it in the Social Room of the Student Center of the University of Bridgeport, and President Neil Salonen kicked off the reading that went on and on and on.

Thanks to Kathy Maher, Rebekah Harriman, Amy Nawrocki, Colin Fricke, Katrina Coakley, Rosemary Landano, and a host of others who came for hours at a time to make this a success. I can't possibly list everyone here - there were almost 300 attendees and over 100 readers.

I will have a video of the experience soon, though next year (!) I hope to have it professionally done.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

On WPKN with Peter Boshan

I appeared on WPKN this afternoon on All Mixed Up With Peter Boshan (the station manager). I was joined by Kathy Maher of the Barnum Museum, Rebekah Harriman, and the National Endowment for the Arts Director of Literature, David Kipen (by phone). It was an exciting experience, though I didn't get to talk as much as the last time I was on. You can tune into Peter's show here, though I don't appear until about an hour in.

Enjoy, and I hope to see some of you tomorrow at the 24 Hour Readathon!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Magus Book Review

My father read The Magus a few summers ago. He tells me he slowly made his way through the first half and then finished the book in one night, unable to put it down. I was happy about this, since my father is an engineer and not the sort of person to read one of the twentieth century’s best pieces of literature. I’m sure he didn’t get out of it what I did, but he did make the comment "What was true in the book? Nothing." Exactly, dad.

John Fowles’ novels all deal with the problems of imagination and reality and their relation to freedom and responsibility. His characters use their existential freedom responsibly, to walk the fine line between the two and thus give up the metaphor, the unreal, for reality. I "borrow" many of Fowles’ ideas from time to time, not because I think he has the answers, but because I think he has the questions.

Indeed, in most of his work, he doesn’t give answers. The French Lieutenant’s Woman actually has two endings. One explanation for the novel’s alternative endings is that they allow Fowles not to choose between the values of absolute individual freedom, the preservation of the self at whatever price, and the necessary social compromise entailed by that "true freedom" which lies between.

In The Magus, a man named Conchis takes freedom to its biological or physical extreme, and in so doing makes the protagonist, Nicholas, experience the need for conventions that check both rampant freedom and the insidious penitential distortions of remorse. The godgame in The Magus consists of a long series of masques, or lies, in which a final truth slowly becomes revealed. The truth that there is no truth. No limits.

Conchis uses Nicholas’s relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Alison, who Nicholas gives up for the "mystery" of the godgame, as the objective correlative to his lesson. Nicholas’s earlier treatment of Alison becomes a metaphor for this fine line between freedom of the self and the responsibility to not use that freedom to hurt others.

The debate over the paradox between fiction and reality in Fowles’s work seems to be the central focus of scholarly work. Most critics agree that Nicholas Urfe must transcend his dependence on metaphor, on art, before he can appreciate ordinary life. The Unreal, mystery, God, art, all is shown to be contrary to the taking of responsible action within the freedom that Nicholas is given. Fowles writes in The Aristos, "Freedom of will is the highest human good; and it is impossible to have both that freedom and an intervening divinity." Discounting his atheistic arguments, Fowles also says, "Since ‘God’ is unknowable, we cannot dam the spring of basic existential mystery."

In the absence of a god, freedom’s ‘fine line’ is where Fowles locates morality. This principle in The Magus and later The French Lieutenant’s Woman grounds them in the idea that "good" can possibly be accomplished and there is a definite human morality in this balance, and therefore a truth, even if there is no judgment. He writes in The Aristos, "To accept one’s limited freedom, to accept one’s isolation, to accept this responsibility, to learn one’s particular powers, and then with them to humanize the whole: that is best for the situation."

Who knows if my father got any of this out of his summer reading? But he got something out of it, no doubt. Fowles’ writing is accessible to all, whether his philosophy is or not. All of Fowles’ novels, especially The Magus, are on my list for anyone who wants a good read. Anyone who wants to be lied to, cheated, and deceived. Because only through realizing the lies will we have the freedom to really choose.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Stratford Public Library

I had a great time giving a presentation to about 25 people at the Stratford Public Library this past Sunday. Some old friends, like J.F. from WPKN, showed up, as well as some new ones, like Diane and Eric. It was a pleasure to talk to Charles Lautier from the library, as well. Next up, the Green Market Exposition on October 21. Of course, I have to run the 24 hour readathon on Oct 16-17 first - no rest for the published.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Trumbull Public Library

Last weekend (or was it the weekend before?) I gave a presentation at the Trumbull Public Library. I even had some people show up for the second time - I hope they weren't bored. They spelled my name wrong on the sign out front, but otherwise they did a fantastic job of giving me everything I needed.

In the last picture I'm talking beforehand with a woman who was 91 years old and remembered watching the animals from the circus' winter quarters roam around the city. Unbelievable! I offered to let her give the lecture. You can also see that they have a videocamera there - I was being filmed for the local TV station, Channel 17. I can't wait to see it!

Friday, October 2, 2009

City Lights and the Locomobile

Last weekend I gave a presentation about Locomobile at the City Lights Gallery for the Antique Car Show. It went so well that I panicked I wouldn't have enough books the next day at the Trumbull Library. Luckily, Trumbull was ahead of the game, and had their own books purchased.

The picture below is actually of a "Trumbull" car, so maybe that means something.

In 1899 the Locomobile began as a steam-powered car. With inventor and electric car manufacturer Andrew Riker’s development of a new gasoline-powered engine for the company, Locomobile was soon one of the most popular cars in the world. The “Number 16” car pictured below won the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup, clocking in at an astonishing 64.38 mph. Locomobile was called the “best built car in America.”

The Bridgeport, CT factory stood on the west side of the harbor, where oil drums stand today. As pictured in the postcard to the right, the factory lay in sight of the famous Seaside Park, and Locomobile cars were often taken for fast drives on gravel pathways that had been designed for stately horse drawn carriages.

The Locomobile had the distinction of being the first car not designed to look like a ‘horse and buggy.’ Andrew Carnegie and Charlie Chaplin took pride in owning one. During World War I, the company sold the Riker Truck to the British army, contributing more vehicles to the war than any other American company.

The brand became a watchword for quality automobiles, catering toward a luxury market. Tiffany and Company even supplied the cars’ silver fittings. However, with the increasing use of autos by the general populace, and the cheap, accessible cars now produced by Ford Motor Company and GM, Locomobile began to lose importance and customers. The Great Depression sounded the final death knell for this fabled Bridgeport car company.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

24 Hour Readathon

We still have a couple of weeks before the 24 Hour Readathon here at the University of Bridgeport. There's an article on the UB home page today.

This photo is actually me reading at the International Poetry reading a couple years ago. I don't have any readathon pictures yet, because we've never done it before! This is an exciting new opportunity, and heralds a new age in UB's outreach to the community. The readathon will be held in the Student Center Social Room, which has hosted speakers like Malcolm X and bands like Duke Ellington's. Should be a blast.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Community College by Amy Nawrocki

My wife is a runner-up in the biannual Phi Kappa Phi Forum poetry competition. You can find her work at the "Online Extras" page of Forum.

Maybe I'm a little prejudiced, but I think hers is by far the best! That last stanza just kills me, how she brings the specific out to the universal so beautifully. "He is my grandfather, fleeing Poland..."

She's good. Check her out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Check out my new short story in the Fall 2009 edition of ken*again. Those of you who are fans of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and 100 Years of Solitude will be sure to enjoy it.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ken Burns, Jazz, and the Beat Poets

Dear Mr. Burns:

In preparation for your upcoming documentary on America’s National Parks, my wife and I have been reviewing your excellent series on Jazz. In part 10, which focuses on Charlie Parker, I noticed a dismissive attitude in both the narration and commentary toward Allen Ginsberg and the so-called “beat” movement. This is due to Ginsberg’s statements about the spontaneity of be-bop, when of course it is quite obvious to a practiced listener that be-bop requires incredible technical proficiency.

It is certainly possible that Ginsberg and his friends heard in be-bop what they wanted to hear. Don’t we all! But if so, it is a historical irony that “beat” poetry is also called “spontaneous” and lauded for it, when in fact the best of it, especially Ginsberg’s poems, also use very complex, syncopated rhythms, and require a similar technical skill to great jazz.

Perhaps it is possible that Ginsberg is referring to the spontaneous spirit of jazz, something that the documentary itself focuses on when comparing the strict “swing” music with, say, Count Basie’s version. It seems an oversight not to explore that angle more, rather than dismissing the author along with a generation of young be-bop listeners. Of course, I would love to see that oversight remedied in a documentary on the history of American Literature!

It is a rare false note in an otherwise spectacular documentary on the history of Jazz. Keep up the good work as America’s greatest documentarian and thank you for your time.


Eric D. Lehman
English Department
University of Bridgeport

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Back to School

"Lifting boulders is a noble profession, not unlike teaching." - EDL

Friday, September 4, 2009

White Leaf Press Anthology

My wife is in the new White Leaf Press anthology of poets from Britain and America. You can find her work in Issue 5. The poem is called "Some Things are Best Left." Here's what editor Stephen Brown said of the piece:

"The ghost that walks through Amy Nawrocki’s poem is the memory of a failed relationship, presented as an unfinished painting: ‘two figures in the half green / landscape of the canvas.’ The two ghostly figures in the poem are indistinct, ‘a blank space emerges.’ Amy suggests that ‘the colours are trying to shade in what is really blank.’

When the speaker urges in the last stanza to ‘Look over and finish the scene,’ one wonders whether it is addressed to the reader or the lover, but the intimacy is lacking in the end and the white space suggests coldness, the emptiness that remains. But as Amy says, ‘Even after it is over, or when we move on, the brush strokes are still there, however subtly.’"

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Last Walk on Silver Lane

I have a new publication today in Mobius: The Journal of Social Change. It's one of my 'new fable' short stories called Last Walk on Silver Lane. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Back to Pennsylvania

I grew up in the Keystone State, and it was good to be back to visit our friends Ryan and Jenifer, along with our 'godson' Hawk. We had a great time at the Wharton Esherick museum and just hanging out with the one-year-old wonder. This is "Shearer Elegance" - the amazing bed and breakfast in Linfield, where we stayed.

We ended up splurging and buying an actual print made from a wood block carved by Wharton Esherick for a plate illustrating Walt Whitman's "Song of the Broad-Axe." It now graces our foyer and reminds me to work hard as I'm leaving the house, or entering it. Work is a pleasure that is unknown by the young, who often think it unpleasant. I know I did, but now revel in the opportunity to create and teach.

On Monday the fall semester begins, and it's back to some of that serious work. I'm deep into writing the history of Hamden, but this fall I will have plenty of chances to talk about Bridgeport on my fall tour. You'll be hearing more on that soon...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tamper 3

My friend, Bill Ectric, was interviewed by Literary Kicks. They also linked to my review of his newest book, Tamper.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Prince Edward Island

This island now has to be one of my favorite livable areas of North America (I like the wilderness out west a lot, but wouldn't necessarily want to LIVE at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, etc.). It reminded me a lot of Europe, except the houses were not as old. The red sandstone really contrasts with the green fields, purple sea, and blue sky. We stayed for the most part in the 'touristy' part of the island - and it was barely touched.

This last one is the famous Green Gables, home of the fictional heroine "Anne of Green Gables," in reality the home of the author's (Lucy Maud Montgomery's) cousins.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Nova Scotia

I have recently returned from a journey to the Canadian Maritimes, and found much to love there. Here are some photos from the Nova Scotia section of the journey...

Fields of wildflowers!


The ubiquitous fireweed, my favorite 'weed' of all.

And the Falcourt Inn, with a porch one could sit a lifetime on.