The Idiot (from Peter Handke’s Die Obstdiebin / The Fruit Thief)

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Another couple of steps farther, at the threshold of the square fronting the train station, part of the goings-on, the Idiot of the No-Man’s-Bay. (There have been various others, and there might well have been even more.) For some time … Continue reading

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tiny shadow hairs: from Alex Caldiero’s Italian Notebooks

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We all know what a poem should look like. It should look like this beauty from Alex Caldiero’s book Some Love: A proper poem, Welsh/American poet Leslie Norris writes, must be groomed:   The poem stands on its firm legs. Its … Continue reading

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The Idiot: A History of the Story

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In his Nobel Prize lecture Peter Handke spoke about stories from his childhood that formed him and that still accompany him as a writer. One of them appeared in his Der kurze Brief zum langen Abschied, 1972: Er fing zu … Continue reading

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Not “Schadenfreude” but “diebische Freude” — solidarity among thieves in Peter Handke’s Die Obstdiebin — The Fruit Thief

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The break between semesters opens up free time for walks and reading and the contemplation that can attend both. I find myself turning to Peter Handke’s novel Die Obstdiebin, published in 2017 but only now drawing my sustained attention, turning to … Continue reading

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Images on the Solstice: From Peter Handke’s Novel “The Fruit Thief” (Die Obstdiebin)

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Images arise deep within himself, the narrator writes, and describes them with a single sentence I’ll translate here as solstice work, on a day following a week of darkness and anxiety, on a day the sun stands still (sol-stice) and … Continue reading

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Handke’s Characters: Never Black, Never White — New York Times

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The essay today in the New York Times about Peter Handke and his work and the Nobel Prize and the controversy surrounding it is more thorough and thoughtful than most recent responses. The headline is atrocious, and it’s too bad that … Continue reading

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Attempt to Exorcize One Story By Means of Another

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Driving home last night with my son Tom after having seen Trent Harris’ disturbing film about Pol Pot’s devastation of Cambodia and a young man caught up in the genocide as a child, a man working in the aftermath to … Continue reading

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Peter Handke’s Nobel Prize Speech

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The Nobel Prize organization has posted a film that shows Handke delivering the speech yesterday (wearing a shirt he has added embroidery to). Below the film are links to translations of the speech into English and Swedish. See the film … Continue reading

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it can fool me but once

My mother, Janice Hilton Abbott, died on December 3, just four weeks before her 91st birthday.


I’ve been looking at photos, reading things she wrote, remembering.

Sunday morning, just four days ago, I sat next to the bed where she lay dying and wrote in my little notebook:

Mom sleeping. The sun slanting in through the blinds of the south window gives color to her forehead, cheeks, and hand. Mouth open, snoring just a bit. Just she and I and the slanting December sun. An hour of grace.

I had Alex Caldiero’s book Not Dreaming / Not Dreamed with me, a 1989/1990 work written while his mother was dying. I read it aloud to the woman who taught me to love works of literature because they teach us and deepen us as they surprise us. Thank you Alex. Love you Mom.


it can fool me but once

my grandmother used to say

death can fool me only once

then it’ll be my turn to laugh


The Rising of the Dead

When the body will be taken away,

then she will be missed.

The house will miss her first,

room by room.

Then the cat will begin

to look for her.

Then the mirror will

sense her absence.

Then the plants will

thirst the way children thirst for milk.

And they will wait —

They will all wait —


I was never so awake

as when I saw

my mother go

into her deepest sleep.



regular thru the

night   By late morning


Close to noon

a faint gurgling    She

lifted herself

opened eyes wide

then closed them

tight,    & with a

quick grimace

let go

last breath




I opened the window


No one


was any the wiser




A part of us is

forever    the friend

we each are

to no other


Yes, Mom, a part of us is forever the friend we each are to no other.


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The Perils of Self-Righteousness

On Thanksgiving Day, a man whose anger is approaching rabidity posted a piece that claims that Peter Handke is a genocide denier or worse because he stayed for a night in a hotel outside of Višegrad used during the war for rapes. … Continue reading

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