This is the Official Weblog for The Guinness Book of Me and all related news, notes, reviews, sightings, quotes, recipes, and dispatches from the book tour.... as well as occasional nibbles, tidbits, nubs, and branches from my woody evergreen of family and friends. Enjoy.

Monday, November 21, 2005


OH, how long I've been gone. It's true. I'M BACK. Just in time for ESPN Full Court College Basketball's yearly siren song . . . I'll try to catch you up on things. Suffice it to say my first semester teaching 4 sections has been quite a learning experience. Nucking futs, to be honest. But I'm making progress on the Day AFter book and working with some dynamite students. We're really liking Providence and all the opportunities that living here provides us . . . I've recently become a commercial fisherman on the weekends and adopted the name, Captain Barry. I wear a white hat and a Hawaiin shirt. It's getting a little cold for flip-flops and my Speedo, so I've taken to wearing a sarong and white jacket with gold epulets . . I'm getting off track. It's about the basketball. That's why I haven't been fishing as much. That's why Malcolm hasn't been out in the dinghy. That's why, to be honest, I'm writing now. Because here I am, sitting in front of the television, watching the sport I love . . . just got done with a triple-overtime game between Michigan State and Gonzaga. Unbelievable. That Adam Morrison kid with his floppy hair and cheesy thin mustache and his Larry Bird-like moves is the real-deal. 41 points. How does he get shots off? . . . and I've got to do something with my hands, my brain. So here I am, catching you up on, well, not much. Little has changed. We've settled into our lives here and time is zipping past. We're making a few friends and just generally appreciating every moment that all 3 of us have together. I'm especially having fun playing with Malcolm when we get some time alone. The other day, we screwed eye-hooks into the exposed ceiling joists in the basement and ran string through them, then raised and lowered a bucket of marbles. We did the same on the back porch and then made a door-closer for his room. It was awesome. . . So getting ready for Thanksgiving with Rachel's family. In fact, since Rachel is snoring on the couch, I have to leave in about ten minutes to pick her mom up from the airport . . . signing off


Sunday, July 24, 2005


Gang Green,

Well, we've sort of settled into Providence. Our furniture, clothes, books, dishes, art, etc. won't be here until Tuesday. But we're having a great time nontheless. Already joined the zoo and went last night to one of the city's "Waterfire" events . . . I'm telling you, it's something pretty amazing. Not just the fire and all the people and the human gargoyles, etc., but the just all around good vibes that you get there. It's a feeling, a sort of collective peace. Everyone there is relaxed and positive and happy. Combined with the floating fire and music, it's pretty freakin' cool . . .

For a (perhaps) more eloquent reflection on the move, read below:

Tiny Apocalypse

If each night is a tiny apocalypse—an end of your world, your day—then each morning provides new opportunity for mutation, adaptation, and survival. It gives you a sacred chance to remake yourself in a new day, a moment to notice things like an insistent red cardinal perched in a tree outside your new home, chirping for hours in the early morning, singing for what seems like pure joy, waking your son from fitful sleep; or the church bells clanging up from the valley below the hillside where you have transplanted, their chimes sounded by a rhythmically challenged ringer; or the fires the night before floating on the water and way your son’s face glowed when the black boat, Prometheus, fed wood to the flame, and later the way the boy gingerly reached his hand up to touch the living statue and shake the gargoyle’s claws; or how a white smokestack from an old oil refinery juts up into the sky not far from you, it’s rusting body girdled with a winding staircase, and in the right kind of light it looks like a temple spire ringed in curling flame; or the way you learn to adapt without furniture, clothing, books, dishes, the stuff of your previous life that’s now somewhere between the old world, Colorado, and the new Rhode Island, packed into a big white truck driven by a large black man named Leroy; or how this new place seems full of life even with all the old cemeteries, large gated plots of granite, and how your son said last night, “Daddy, if you put a big rock on someone, it means you love them,” and how this wasn’t presented as a question but as a comment about the purpose of gravestones; or the way you’re now sitting on your back deck, your good dog soaking up spots of morning sun, and you are thinking about the Italian bakery you saw yesterday, Genarro’s, down the hill on Charles street and Graziano’s homemade sausage shop a couple blocks over, and how much you want to become a regular there, a frequent friend, the kind of customer they call by name; because this awareness of your surroundings, this attention to the sublime, is how you adapt and survive--through the frenetic gathering of detail, the mossy accumulation of new stories.

Much peace and big love.


Friday, July 08, 2005

Dreams Do Come True


OK, I submit this post not to gloat or brag, but simply as recognition of the significance of today. What, you may ask, is the significance of today? Good question.

Today marks my very last day (ever?) working an 8-5, 40 hr a week job!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, it's true that some might not consider this a worthwhile dream; but I've been ready to retire since I started working and I figure the life of an Academic is about as close as I can come to it while actually pulling down a salary and acting like a responsible adult . . .

So it's off to the halls of the Academy at Roger Williams University, where my "dream" of being a freewheeling, writing-obsessed, book-obsessed, slightly eccentric (or at least a bit strange) professor will be dragged kicking and screaming into the day-to-day grinding muck of teaching 4 sections each semester . . . (I'm still trying to pretend that 4 sections won't be that much different than 2; so don't burst my bubble, OK).

Peas. Gout. -- SWC

Friday, July 01, 2005

Sandra Day, Say it Ain't So

Dear Ones,

We are utterly and completely fucked:

That could be 2 Justices that W appoints after Rhenquist resigns . . .

What's to stop him now?

Oh well, at least the world still has 646 lb. catfish (see above) and giant feral hogs (aka Hogzilla) . . .


Thursday, June 30, 2005



Now this is one damn big catfish . . . my favorite graf? 4th one down. Gotta love it. They ATE it!!

There's a village with its priorities right.

I'd like to see the battle Hogzilla Vs. Giant Catfish . . .

No Fish Tale: Thais Catch 646-Pound Fish
By DANIEL LOVERING Associated Press Writer

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- This big one did not get away. Thai fishermen netted a 646-pound catfish believed to have been the world's largest freshwater fish ever caught in Thailand, a researcher said Thursday.

The nearly 9-foot-long Mekong giant catfish was landed May 1 by villagers in Chiang Khong, a remote district in northern Thailand, and weighed by Thai fisheries department officials, said Zeb Hogan, who leads an international project to locate and study the world's largest freshwater fish species.

He confirmed it was the heaviest fish on record since Thailand started keeping such statistics in 1981.

The fishermen had hoped to sell the fish to environmental groups, which planned to release it to spawn upriver, but it died before it could be handed over and then was chopped up and sold in pieces to villagers as food.

Hogan, whose work is funded by the World Wildlife Fund and the National Geographic Society, said he is planning to write a paper about the catch for a scientific journal.

"That's the best way to document this kind of thing," he told The Associated Press by telephone.
The Mekong giant catfish was listed as critically endangered in 2003 after research showed its numbers had fallen by at least 80 percent in the past 13 years.

Fishermen believe the catfish species has been declining largely because of dams and environmental damage along the Mekong River - home to more species of giant fish than any other river, said an earlier statement by WWF and the society.


Monday, June 27, 2005


Freaks, Check it out. More press. A nice review from The Oregonian ( the guy is a member of the National Book Critics Circle!! I needed this. Enjoy. -- SWC

Finding refuge with record holders
THE GUINNESS BOOK OF ME Steven Church Simon & Schuster, $23, 225 pages
Sunday, June 26, 2005
When the Guinness World Records 2005 published its 50th anniversary edition early this year, Steven Church almost certainly took note. Maybe he even bought the 300-page compilation. He wouldn't have been able to resist, judging by his inventive book "The Guinness Book of Me: A Memoir of Record."

Now 32 and an editor for the arts organization Many Mountains Moving, Church lives in Colorado with his wife and son. Most of his memoir, however, looks back on growing up in Lawrence, Kan., with his mother, father and brother, Matt. While an elementary school student, Church became an obsessive Guinness Book of World Records reader, spending his precious dollars to buy a new copy every year at the book fair.

Church lost himself in thoughts about what motivated the record holders; he shares his imagined stories throughout this memoir, giving it a surrealistic quality, though one punctuated with humor. Sometimes, Church imagined himself as a record holder, despite knowing deep down that he lacked the motivation to see any such outlandish activity to such a conclusion.

The organization of the Guinness book informs the organization of the memoir, beginning with "Most Variable Stature." The holder of that supposedly documented record (Church seems to take on faith that all the records listed are documented) stood less than 4 feet tall at age 21 but eventually topped 7 feet in height. That appealed to Church, perhaps in some half-understood way because of his own large body, which threatened his comparatively puny classmates. (Hence, his chapter title "Boy, Misfit.")

Today, Church is 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 260 pounds. His bulk plays a significant role throughout the memoir. (See, for instance, "Diet, Strangest" and "Fall, Hardest.") That bulk is contrasted with brother Matt, younger by 19 months, more normally sized, more comfortable in his body, and an accomplished daredevil. Matt irritates his older brother sometimes, though Church is irritated by being irritated.

After a shocking accident, Church feels impelled to leave Kansas, to put memories behind him by moving westward. But there is still a need to return to Kansas from time to time, causing discomfort of several sorts. Part of the discomfort is the physical act of flying on an airplane, where, Church says, "I feel like a statistical anomaly, an oddity seat designers couldn't factor into their decisions." So he pulls his much-thumbed 1980 super-edition of Guinness from the seat pocket. Church relates how he disappears "into a refuge of print and paper while the stewardess blocks my exit with the drink cart, trapping me and rendering me completely motionless -- inert, captured. I turn to my Guinness friends. I turn to stories, hoping the right kind will set me free."

Church's memoir is likely to set readers free, as they enter his alternative universe. He is mighty young to write a memoir. But Church is so perceptive about himself, so observant of others, that he offers a rich serving from an already oversized life.

Steve Weinberg is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Nepotism at its Worst


Check this out. I paid $22 to enter the Glasgow Prize Emerging Writer's Prize Contest sponsored by the lit mag, Shenandoah and judged by Jeffrey Hammond (recent winner of the Missouri Review's Ed. Prize for the Essay). It came with a subscription to Shenandoah. That was it. But if you win, you get $2500 and a reading a Washington and Lee University. Sounds pretty good, huh. It's only open to writers with one book of creative nonfiction.

I recently received news that I did not win. Nor was I named a finalist. The winner is a writer named Rebecca McClanahan and her book, The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings, was published in 2002. She has at least two other books on writing that I found on Amazon and scads of publications.

But this doesn't seem so interesting until you do a Google search for the names Jeffrey Hammond AND Rebecca McClanahan . . . .

Let's start first with what Mr. Hammond says about McClanahan's work (from a Wash and Lee press release).

Hammond praised the "writerly achievement" of McClanahan's book and the excellent job of "maintaining the delicate balance between imaginative freedom and thematic lucidity," as well as "an enviable lack of sentimentality" while exploring the mysteries of family.

Now, let's take a look at what else our little internet search turned up . . . (from 2003)

Jeffrey Hammond Receives Shenandoah Literary Prize
Lynn Leech
LEXINGTON, VA—SHENANDOAH -- The Washington and Lee University Review, recently announced the winners of its annual fiction, essay and poetry prizes for 2003. Jeffrey Hammond, professor of English at St. Mary's College of Maryland, is the winner of the Thomas H. Carter Prize for the Essay for his work, “Night Moves." The Carter Prize, judged this year by Rebecca McClanahan, is given in honor of the late Thomas H. Carter, co-founder of Shenandoah magazine. The award is presented to the author of what is judged to be the best essay published in the magazine each year. Hammond’s most recent books are "Ohio States: A Twentieth-Century Midwestern" and "The American Puritan Elegy: A Literary and Cultural Study."


The really sad part is that this doesn't really surprise me. This kind of shit happens all the time. I told Rachel about this and she got all pissed off and wanted me to raise a stink (I still might send back my copy of Shenandoah and ask for my money back) . . . But it's kind of like the Mafia. You can only hurt yourself by complaining.

But wouldn't you feel kind of dirty if you did something like this? Wouldn't it just kind of make your skin crawl? These are the kind of people running the asylum and I'm still banging on the doors, trying to get them to let me in . . . . I wonder how I'll react in the future--if I ever get to judge a contest and a friend or close colleague submits a ms., will I have the decency, the integrity to pass on it because of a conflict of interest, or will I give it the prize out of respect for the work, out of power, out of spite or blindness? Hard to say.

Fucking writers.