Arts & Culture

Arts and culture

user mconnors / morgueFile

A Michigan book publisher is using social media to update a popular 19th century publishing method made famous by Charles Dickens.

The University of Michigan Press will serialize two new novels using Facebook, beginning July 18.

Christopher T. Leland is a committed writer.

The author of nine books, Dr. Leland's most recent book includes stories that he began working on when he was 19 years old.

The story collection, Love/Imperfect, was released in April and is part of Wayne State University Press's "Made in Michigan Writers" series.

I spoke with Dr. Leland via phone. We talked about the centrifugal force of cities, the "edge" of small towns, and the seemingly inescapable Michigan stories of Ernest Hemingway.

Brian Short: Welcome Christopher T. Leland to Michigan on the Page. I wanted to start with something I noticed in reading Love/Imperfect, your most recent book. Many of the stories in Love/Imperfect deal with people who either leave or don’t leave the small towns they grew up in. And I was wondering if you grew up in a small town? Did you feel that same kind of gravity pulling at you, trying to keep you there?

Christopher T. Leland: Well, yes and no. I actually grew up in middle-sized cities. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, and then in Charlotte, North Carolina, and then in Huntington Beach, California, which is a suburb of LA.

But I think, just as in small town America, there is this center which is centrifugally pulling you toward it. And when I was a kid, actually, we would visit these places. We would go to New York and go to Chicago. But the city was always the place you ultimately wanted to end up.

I mean it was always, it was always what I aspired to. I mean, I’ve lived in New York, I’ve lived in Buenos Aires, I’ve lived in Madrid, I’ve lived in LA, I’ve lived in San Diego (laughs). I’ve lived in Detroit. I appreciate the attractions of the 'burbs and the attractions, actually of small towns. There’s a kind of intimacy and a kind of comfort and, also (laughs), frankly, a kind of edge that comes with these kinds of communities.

At the same time, I mean, what you love about cities is that you wake up one morning and go, I’m really bored with this, and so you can go, walk or drive or take the subway or the tram or whatever, three miles away and be in a different world.

BS: Do you think it’s easier to write in cities?

CTL: Hmm. Maybe not. Because it’s too easy to get away (laughs). As opposed to being trapped where you kind of go, okay, well, if I’m going to escape this then I have to write about it because I can’t just go to southwest (Detroit). I can go to southwest (Detroit) and speak Spanish and eat Mexican or Salvadorian or Peruvian food and feel like I’m away from the Detroit that I know. Whereas, if I’m in Charlevoix, I can’t do that.

BS: I was wondering, with Love/Imperfect, a number of the stories involve war. But the stories generally stick to telling what happened to people either before or after when the men went. Do you think of this book as at least partly a book about war?

CTL: I think, you know, sadly enough, I think for Americans, somehow, whether you’re a soldier or not, certainly throughout the twentieth century and certainly during the last half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, our lives have been so over determined  by war. I can’t think of my adolescence and my college years without thinking of the Vietnam War. I mean, it was a constant presence.

BS: When you think of Detroit or Michigan books, what pops into your mind?

CTL: Inevitably, you go back to (Ernest Hemingway’s) “Up in Michigan.” Everybody has to. I mean, I read that as an undergraduate. And I think my favorite story is the one called “The Light of the World” in which nothing happens.

It’s the one that takes place in the railroad station and they argue about Jack Ketchum and Jack Johnson. They argue about boxing matches and all this as they’re all waiting for a train. And it strikes me in that book as the most complex and ambiguous or ambivalent story in the entire collection. Because the only person who ultimately emerges as honest and admirable is the character who everyone dismisses.

It’s just a great story and I mean it shows you because, poor Hemingway, he gets either lionized or bashed. And, I mean, he’s a wonderful writer. He’s better at stories than he is at novels, as everybody says, but a terrific writer and a terrific influence.

BS: Christopher T. Leland is a professor of English at Wayne State University. He is the author of nine books, the most recent of which is Love/Imperfect. Chris, thank you so much for talking with me today.

CTL: Okay! And one more thing I wanted to make sure I got in. 

BS: Go ahead.

CTL: I’ve taught at Wayne (State University) now for 21 years. I can’t imagine — I think this is true — I can’t imagine a better gig. For anybody out there who is sort of developing ambitions in this direction. If you’re going to teach somewhere, teach at a large urban university where you get everybody. Yellow brown and black and white (laughs). The whole nine yards.

Emily Fox / Michigan Radio

Artists in Seattle and Philadelphia have been painting large murals on abandoned buildings in an effort to revitalize neighborhoods. Philadelphia for example, has around 2,000 murals to help brighten the city.

Everyone has heard of Motown Records, but few probably remember its Los Angeles offshoot, MoWest. It didn't last long — only two years — but during its life span, MoWest allowed Motown to try out new styles and genres and create one of the most eclectic rosters in the label's long history. Most of MoWest's releases have been out of print the past 40 years, but a new anthology called Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love: Motown's MoWest Story 1971-1973 finally highlights the label's life and legacy.

Image courtesy of Rob Gorski

On today's Artpod, we'll hear from a New York physician who bought a remote, uninhabited island in Lake Superior. His plan is to turn it into an artist residency next summer.

The land, known as Rabbit Island, is about a half hour boat ride from the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

A quintet of musicians has been traveling across the state for the past 10 days. They don’t have a tour van or a u-haul stuffed with instruments. Instead, the guys are pedaling their bikes from Holland to Detroit…with their instruments in tow! They're also raising money for various charities along the way.

Submitted by Amber Turner

Family bonding can be a reward for working in a family business. But there is also plenty Amber Turner worries about.

The restaurant industry took a beating in the economic downturn. Although some Wall Street analysts expect restaurants to pick up soon, a lagging restaurant industry makes Turner more than a little nervous. In her family, any trouble is multiplied.

Dani Davis

A unique business accelerator opens today in Detroit. 

A lot of business accelerators, generally speaking, focus on internet startups and biotech companies. But with the new Creative Ventures Acceleration Program in Detroit, the spotlight is on creative industries:

"The industrial design world, the interior design world, fashion design, music production, video production and architecture."

An uninhabited island in Lake Superior will soon be home to an artist residency program.

New Yorker Rob Gorski saw the 91-acre island listed for sale on Craiglist. At first, he was skeptical. But after talking it over with his brother, both of whom are Michigan natives, they bought the island for less than $150,000.

The land, known as Rabbit Island, is about a half hour boat ride from the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Kyle Norris

Cartoonist Jerzy Drozd has picked twenty-one rural and urban towns in Michigan where he knows people are having a tough time making ends meet. Drozd has been visiting those towns and offering comic-drawing workshops, free of charge, to the kids in those areas.  

At the Northville District Library, 30 miles west of Detroit, cartoonist Drozd asks a room full of kids what they might do if they were in a grocery store and they wanted to get their parent’s attention.

The city of Grand Rapids experienced a series of tragic events yesterday. An alleged lone shooter murdered seven people, including two children, and engaged in a standoff with police before taking his life. As the events played out people in Grand Rapids turned to social media.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Cliff Lampe about the role of social media during this tragic event. Lampe is Assistant Professor at Michigan State University in the Department of Telecommunication and Information Studies and Media.   

In the interview Lampe says:                                             

"Uncertainty can cause a lot of anxiety for people. So looking to social media for very up to date information can help reduce uncertainty and make them feel more comfortable. A lot of people were also reaching out to loved ones who lived in the affected area just, both to express concern about how they were doing and to make sure every body was okay, and then to find out more information about what was going on."

screenshot of CNN website

More than 6,000 U.S. servicemen and servicewomen have been killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to iCasualties.org.

Several media outlets track this information and break it down by state.

CNN.com has an interactive map that lists the casualties separately from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their maps show where the soldier was from, and where they were killed.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s path to revival has been in the news a lot lately. Drive an hour northwest to Flint and you’ll find a city whose struggles are similar if not worse than Detroit's. But a coalition of artists, city officials and residents is trying to re-write Flint's story through art.

Flint's problems are pretty well documented: murders, arson, blight, poverty, massive police layoffs, and the dubious honor of being named one of the most violent cities in the country.

Plus there's Michael Moore's 1989 movie Roger & Me, which basically memorialized Flint's decline on the big screen. It's a movie Stephen Zacks would rather forget.

"People know Michael Moore, they know Roger & Me, so you respond to that question for your whole life. You keep answering the question: What's wrong with Flint?"

user benlmoyer / wikimedia commons

10,000 buildings by the end of his first term in 2013

That's how many buildings Detroit Mayor Bing wants to bring down.

This Friday, the city says one of the 10,000 will be a big one - Ford Auditorium, former home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

From MLive:

Ford Auditorium's date with the wrecking ball has been set for Friday afternoon, according to a release from the city of Detroit.

Earlier this week, workers removed the pipe organ from the 55-year-old structure with a then-undetermined demolition date. Mayor Dave Bing will make some brief remarks at 11 a.m. before demolition begins.

Here's a look inside the Auditorium from WXYZ:

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) - The U.S. military says a 28-year-old Army sergeant from Battle Creek has been killed in an enemy attack in Afghanistan.

The Defense Department said Thursday that Staff Sgt. Joshua Throckmorton died Tuesday in Afghanistan's Paktia province. The military says Throckmorton died of injuries suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

Also killed in the attack were 24-year-old Spc. Jordan Schumann of Port St. Lucie, Fla., and 22-year-old Spc. Preston Suter of Sandy, Utah.

They were part of the 709th Military Police Battalion in Hohenfels, Germany.

submitted by Robert Brown

Robert Brown is like a lot of retired people:  He volunteers. Unlike a lot of retired people, however, his volunteer work is teaching Buddhist meditation to prisoners.

Brown is 70 and an Marine veteran. He retired from his job making signs for local businesses about four years ago. But he’s been a Soto Zen Buddhist for 40 years. In the late nineties, somebody in his temple asked if he’d like to come along to a meditation session in a prison.

Fiction Writers Review

Jeremiah Chamberlin wears many hats.

He is a published writer whose work has appeared in Glimmer Train, Flyway and Michigan Quarterly Review, and he is writing an ongoing series about independent bookstores for Poets and Writers.

Tyrone Warner / Creative Commons

Last month Holland City Council voted against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to their local anti-discrimination laws. But the fight over gay rights continues in the generally conservative town.

The debate surrounds the City of Holland adopting local laws. These laws would protect people from getting fired or kicked out of their houses because they are gay or transgender. Federal and state laws protect people from discrimination – but not based on a person’s sexuality or gender identity.

The debate is not technically about the morality of homosexuality. But in a community known for having a church on almost every corner – for many people in Holland that is definitely part of the conversation.

Jamila Nasser

As the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks approaches, a group of Arab American middle school students spent the past year documenting their lives and their community. Their stories are part of a new exhibit at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn.

Kresge Foundation

Twelve fellowships have been awarded to Detroit area visual artists. Each Kresge Artist Fellowship is worth $25,000 and has a “no strings attached” policy. 

Visual artist Liz Cohen was one of the winners.

“Oh I mean it’s an honor, it’s a great organization and a great grant and an opportunity to become closer to a lot of the other artists in the city.”

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