Entries in Book (5)


Off Belay: One Last Great Adventure

In 2015, I helped Jamie Shumway, a patient with ALS, write his memoir. It's now available at Amazon for purchase.

To learn more about the work I did with Jamie, check out the Narrative Medicine tab on this website. 


Off Belay--Coming Soon!

Watch for updates for Off Belay: One Last Great Adventure by Jamie Shumway. Over the last ten months of Jamie's life, I helped him craft his memoir. Jamie approached his ALS with courage and made writing this book his work during his illness. While I miss him dearly, I am so glad that his stories will soon be available to us all.

To preview, go to www.jamieshumway.com

To find out more about my work in narrative medicine, you can click the link on the homepage. 


Creative Crash?

I've recently finished an interesting book by Scott Timberg--Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class

According to his publisher's site: "He identifies social tensions and contradictions—most concerning the artist’s place in society—that have plunged the creative class into a fight for survival."

Certainly I agree that this is the main project of the book, and as such, it got me thinking. When he talks about poetry being "inhaled by academia" for instance, I can see this quite clearly and quite personally. 

Something that Timberg dedicates attention to in his book is the "celebrity industrial complex." And this, I think is one of many points worth noting (just happens to be one that struck me enough to write about on a snowy, Sunday late morning-noontime).

First, Timberg asserts "culture was, for a while, what America did best: we produce and export creativity around the world." He then discusses how we inside America look at the producers of culture; "when someone employed in the world of culture loses a job, it's easier to dismiss or sneer at their plight than when it happens to, say, a steelworker or an auto worker."

It's important to note that cultural jobs, in Timberg's view, include those who champion culture--critics, journalists, record store and book store workers, etc., in addition to those who create art. 

He's provocative, and even if you read Culture Crash and don't 100% agree, I think what Timberg does is sharpen the place for argument. All job losses have consequences, and the changing face of employment for the worse among record corporate growth is worth considering in general. Should that exclude artists? It often does. Timberg quotes painter and art critic Peter Plagens, "There's always this sense that art is just play."

An interesting point Timberg makes about the "celebrity industrial complex" (I have to admit, the phrase seems apt!) is "Because distribution has been democratized by the Internet, we tend to think that talent has been democratized as well." 

Which leads to his assertion that "the prejudice against the creative class is part of a larger revolt against experts and expertise." Timberg then maintains that while creativity is a kind of expertise, it is not one that "we, as a democracy, have never been entirely comfortable with."

I bring these things up, because as someone who feels ensconced in creativity (and arguably able to do so because of being inhaled into academia) it seems very worth considering, thinking deeply about.

Timberg also makes me think about the "market fundamentalism" now impressed on culture (among other aspects of 21st Century life), "the idea that everything, whether education, culture or the state of our souls, can be bought, sold, and measured."


Later, in a chapter titled "Lost in the supermarket" he talks about the idea that culture has been reduced to the American Idol format-- that there are cultural winners that become superstars (megastars?), and the rest are losers. No middle ground, no middle, really, at all.

"In publishing," Timberg writes, "the death of the midlist started, probably, in the 1970s, and--despite a bump during the building of superstores--has accelerated since." He then talks about the way marketing has changed to support the superstar model, explaining the "rollout strategy" as being like "the plan to invade small countries."

Quoting Anita Elberse, "One key factor here is that people like winners--they prefer to consume entertainment products that are chosen by others."And from this he takes us to the Idol folks--"Winner-take-all exerts a relentless logic not just on our creative life, but our cultural memory."

These are just a few of the snippets that caught my attention (among many, honestly, but I think you should get the book and see what catches you). I do think those involved in culture--it's creation, its criticism, its proliferation, etc.--should read Timberg, which for me was a gut-check experience, an ordering of things I felt vaguely but that I became clearer about as I read.

Yes, it felt at times depressing. Strangely, too, hopeful, perhaps because the conversation is finally out there to be had. 


Roundabout Directions to Lincoln Center

Book update! You can now order the collection at Amazon. More options to follow.


Day Two: West Virginia Writers Workshop

This just about sums up my day:

With WVU President Gordon Gee on the launch of my debut collection. My sincere thanks to everyone who attended. I can't tell you how much this meant to me.