March 8th, 2013 | 9:00am


Late afternoon, late January. I need air, exercise, but my regular walk around Al Manhal Palace is too long; the construction en route to the Corniche too hazardous to navigate. I try to take comfort in the company of my own mind, but today I am a terrible person to be with. Wandering, uninspired, brain-stuck, I find myself in the middle of ten lanes of traffic on a median barely wider than a balance beam. Grumpy as all get out as hot exhaust blasts me by. I need to move, but I have nowhere to go.

I don’t know it yet, but what I need is a dérive.

Photo by Todd Pitock
March 6th, 2013 | 9:00am

In Telč, a town about two hours from Prague in the Czech Highlands, rain beat down like a parade of drums. Zdenka Noskova, the woman I had come to see, arrived at my hotel in the main square to take me to a memorial she had created.
At 37, Zdenka had a demure manner. She wore her auburn hair short, and dressed in a long skirt. She worked in a print shop, though the lasting imprint she’d made had been a walking trail, and later, a memorial she’d created to the memory of a Jewish painter who died in the Holocaust.

March 5th, 2013 | 9:00am

Leslie Ullman is a fluent, effervescent poet and author of the award-winning collections Slow Work Through Sand, Dreams by No One's Daughter, and Natural Histories. She teaches poetry – although she considers that all of us, including her students, are "interdisciplinary beings" – at Vermont College of Fine Arts and is professor emerita at University of Texas-El Paso. Melody Nixon saw her read on the last day of 2012 in Montpelier, Vermont. Taken by the lyrical language of her poetry, she invited Ullman into an email dialogue about the light of New Mexico, absence, and the experience of being interviewed.

Photo by Warrne Brown Photography, from Flickr Creative Commons
March 4th, 2013 | 9:00am

Photo by Warrne Brown Photography, from Flickr Creative Commons

This time of year, I’m always hoping for one last snowstorm or cold snap. I love winter, and am always sad to see it go. To give the season a proper goodbye, these links celebrate all things cold things cold and snowy:

At Brevity, Amy Butcher reflects on ice skating.

At The New York Review of Books, Ian Frazier reviews a new anthology of writing about the Arctic.

March 1st, 2013 | 9:21am


The modern novel is probably an unintended consequence of nineteenth-century European cities. James Wood glosses the idea in his handbook How Fiction Works.The breakthrough narration in Madame Bovary, for instance, a stylish authorial voice that seemingly dissolves into the consciousness of its subjects on a wash of image and detail, corresponds to a boom in European industrial urbanism. Its vector is the flâneur: the young and loitering, the unemployable café-sitters, the arcade-browsers. These onlookers adapted their eyes to the city’s “large, bewilderingly various amounts of detail,” says Wood.