Substantiation of Ideas


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Mendel’s Peas: A new translation

Yesterday the journal Genetics published our article about Mendel’s reading of Darwin’s Origin of Species in a German translation and his use of some of the ideas in his report on his experiments with hybridity in peas. The journal also published our translation of the original article. The last couple of paragraphs especially show evidence of Darwin’s influence on Mendel’s thought.

Dan Fairbanks is the scientist. I am the Germanist who came along for what was a very interesting ride.

You can find our work here and here



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Immortal for Quite Some Time: Ken Sanders Rare Books

Scott Abbott Oct 15.jpeg

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Barbed Wire: Good News!

Over the weekend Lyn and I got the second reader’s report on our manuscript. It was as enthusiastic as the first. Approval by the Texas A&M University Press editorial board is still required, but for all practical purposes we have a publisher.

Our book will be in a series called “Connecting the Greater West,” edited by Sterling Evans, whose book Bound in Twine: The History and Ecology of the Henequen-Wheat Complex for Mexico and the American and Canadian Plains, 1880-1950 is a surprising and comprehensive and even fascinating look at the history of baling twine. Baling twine, for god’s sake! At least our “thing” has barbs.

A couple of weeks ago we threw out some of our printed drafts for the book. For several years it has felt like a never ending process. Now it looks like there will be a happy end.


A couple of paragraphs from the reports by outside readers:

For most potential readers there will be many surprises here. Obviously everyone will be aware that barbed wire was marketed as a way to restrict the movement of livestock. But I think most readers will not know that it was also understood to restrict the movement of Native Americans and freed slaves. That part of its history has been largely forgotten; this is thus also a recovery project. It revives part of our national history, including elements we would prefer to forget. The vulgarity and racism of some of this history will shock readers not familiar with it. And it is likely that the role of barbed wire in contemporary Native American struggles will also be news to most readers.

Writing Style:  It’s excellent!  The manuscript reads VERY well, it moves along well from chapter to chapter (with what I thought were terrific transitions). It’s lucid.  I’m sure both professional historians, buffs, and a general public would enjoy the book.

Both readers had thoughtful suggestions that we will take into account as we prepare the final draft. They have done us a big favor.


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What a Book! What a Performance! What a Night!

Alex launched his new book last night at Ken Sanders’ Rare Books.

Here is Michael McLane’s photo of Alex as he began:


The audience filled the place, with the crowd stretching out the open door onto the street.

Alex was powerful and pensive, funny and wise. And the book, a reproduction of hid notebook “Six Days on the Colorado River Thru Cataract Canyon,” is stunning. The folks at Saltfront made the book look like it had just been rescued from the water. It is a work of art.


yesterday the river

ripped my glasses

off my face and said:

Now, look !!


A couple of images:



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On the 23 of September 2016, Alex Caldiero celebrates his 67th birthday. On the 27 of September he celebrates the birth of his new book Who Is the Dancer, What Is the Dance at Ken Sanders Rare Books in Salt Lake City.

On the 23 of September 2016, Zarko Radakovic celebrates the birth of his novel Kafana / Tavern in Belgrade.

On the 23 of September 2016 Scott Abbott celebrates more than three decades of friendship with two extraordinary writers and in early October the birth of his own book.

These are friendships that invite literary collaboration, friendships that encourage and support, friendships that provide opportunities, friendships that demand good work.

That my book Immortal for Quite Some Time will appear almost simultaneously with Zarko’s Kafana and Alex’s Who Is the Dancer, What is the Dance is a special pleasure, a literary linking of three friends who are friends in spirit as well as letters.

This photo of a few of Zarko’s books reveals him as an emigrant/immigrant (two titles with the word emigracije), as intimately connected to extraordinary visual artists—the painter Knifer and the performance artist Era, and as a translator of and fellow traveler with Peter Handke (the blue book is Zarko’s translation of Handke’s The Moravian Night and the two books co-authored with me are responses to Handke’s work, traveling responses that took us into Yugoslavia before the wars and into Serbia between the wars.


In my copy of Zarko’s translation of The Moravian Night, he wrote these words of friendship:

Dear Scott, again and again we flow into Peter’s Morava, and again and again we flow out of it. Wherever this powerful, meandering body of water flows, we two, my dearest friend, will always accompany it . . . Your Zarko, Cologne, 29/4/2013


This photo of a few of Alex’s books reveals him as an emigrant/immigrant like Zarko (sonosuono takes him back to his birthplace and home for his first 9 years, Sicily), as a visual artist (all of the covers except for that of Some Love feature his work), and as a prolific poet (the dozens of chapbooks Alex has produced in addition to these books are breathtaking in their scope). Like Zarko, Alex is also a translator, in his case from Sicilian to English.


Inside my copy of his Some Love, one of the most beautiful books I have ever held/seen, Alex avowed our friendship and reminded me that I too am a maker/writer.

Sitting here at my desk I think that I too am an emigrant/immigrant. With the help of these friends from Yugoslavia and Sicily, I emigrated from my lonely self and immigrated into collaborative friendships.


How is it possible, I am thinking this morning, that over my own 67 years I have found such dear friends? A high-school friendship with Doug Moeller continues. My friendship with Steven Epperson that began in Princeton and included a joint essay we called “House of the Lord, House of the Temple”—still one of the favorite things I have ever published— continues across the distance between Utah and British Columbia. My friendship with Sam Rushforth has invigorated me for three decades and resulted in our book Wild Rides and Wildflowers: Philosophy and Botany with Bikes. And there have been many others.

I’m a fortunate man. And today I lift a glass to friendship, to dear friends.


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Serbian Authors: Stubovi kultura

A few hours ago Zarko sent me this photo of a gathering of authors in the lobby of the Belgrade publisher Stubovi kultura. “We are there too,” he wrote.


It takes some careful looking, but there are our portraits on the wall at the top left with our book between us. I’m in profile, Zarko half profile.

I open our second book with this publisher, Vampires & A Reasonable Dictionary, and find my description of my introduction to this room and to the publisher (in the back with the beard):

I meet Žarko in front of the Hotel Moskva, and in the midday heat we make our way to the basement offices of Stubovi Kulture, formerly Vreme Knjige, the publishing house of our book: Ponavljanje – Repetitions.

Photos of all the authors published by Stubovi Kulture adorn the walls: Bruce Chatwin, Joseph Conrad, Anthony Burgess, Dragan Velikić, Danilo Kiš, Žarko, and myself.

Žarko introduces me to the publisher, Predrag Marković, a small man with a long, full beard and intense black eyes, and to Gojko Božović, editor for literature, a thin man who looks like he’s about 15.

Pleased to meet you, says the publisher. You look just like your photo.

What did you think I would look like? I ask.

All this time we’ve thought you were a fiction made up by Žarko for narrative purposes, the publisher explains.

Both of our books are now available in English translation with punctum books, Brooklyn. Find them here (among other works best described as “spontaneous acts of scholarly combustion”).

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Two Friends, Three New Books

Near the end of September, new books by my dear friends of three decades will appear.


The title Kafana means tavern or pub. The narrator sits at a table in the living room of his apartment, staring out the window and across the river where he sees a tall crane working in the sun, sees it as an animate running creature. Jasmina Vrbavac writes that the novel is “a valuable record of the unconscious, an entrance to the labyrinth of associations and thoughts that haunt the lucid author. . . . Along the way burglars steal the narration and become independent narrators.

David Albahari writes that the novel “is both an autobiographical account of the author as a storyteller who wants to leave no trace of himself in the text, a brief overview of the avant-garde authors during the second half of the twentieth century, and finally, the study of the ‘holy city’ of European culture, the pub, where in the same breath  a man can be put on a pedestal, and immediately afterwards reduced to mold and mud.”

Congratulations Zarko!

Published by the environmental humanities folks at Saltfront, Alex’s Who is the Dancer, What is the Dance, “is based,” the program of the Utah Humanities Council’s Book Festival program says, “on a pocket journal that poet Alex Caldiero kept with him during a six-day river trip on the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon. In these poems, and the reproduced drawings that accompany, and often house, them, Caldiero explores how we simultaneously impinge upon, and give ourselves over to, a landscape. In these poems, our urban preconceptions falter and adapt to these places we call wild.”


Congratulations Alex!

That the two book are appearing almost simultaneously with my own Immortal for Quite Some Time is something only Carl Jung could explain.

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Excerpt from Immortal for Quite Some Time in 15 Bytes, Artists of Utah

SUNDAY BLOG READ is your glimpse into the working minds and hearts of Utah’s literary writers. At least once a month, 15 Bytes offers works-in-progress and / or recently published work by some of the state’s most celebrated and promising writers of fiction, poetry, literary non-fiction and memoir.

Today, 15 Bytes features Utah Valley University writer and professor Scott Abbott who here favors us with an excerpt from his Immortal for Quite Some Time, due out this month from the University of Utah Press. Of this non-fiction work which Scott bills a “fraternal meditation,” he writes, “My brother John died of AIDS in 1991 at the age of 40. The most surprising thing I learned as I began to write about him was that you can’t describe your brother without describing yourself. And that can be uncomfortable, especially if you are a heterosexual, practicing Mormon.

“[Here, i]n fits and starts I sketch my versions of a lonely, funny, talented, hard-luck, bisexual, ex-Mormon and his ostensibly more stable brother. The former has no choice but to suffer this outing at the hands of his brother. And the latter, although he can choose what he discloses about himself, risks radical redefinition of a self constructed according to LDS guidelines by devout LDS parents.

“Wary of triumphant narratives that celebrate a writer’s courageous escape from a repressive culture, I add to my first-person account a critical female voice that questions my assertions and ridicules my rhetoric. Missing my brother, I move from the cold vision of autopsy to direct conversation during the book’s final sections.”

So curl up with your favorite cup of joe, and enjoy Scott Abbott’s work!


For the section “Incalculable Territory,” click HERE

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Jim Harrison, the ancient minstrel/mongrel

Started reading Harrison’s final book last night. He writes in the introduction that he was thinking of writing a memoir, an addition to an earlier one. “To be honest,” he writes, “which I am often not. . . .” And then family members demand to be left out. So, “I decided to continue the memoir in the form of a novella. At this late date I couldn’t bear to lapse into any delusions of reality in nonfiction.” He had troubles, he says, deciding on the title: minstrel? mongrel?

At the beginning of my Immortal for Quite Some Time, I claim that it is not a memoir, noting that the photos are as unreliable as the prose.

No delusions of reality in my nonfiction. And mongrels have better genes than purebreds.

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