Intellectual Browsing in the Library / Reading Groups

Intellectual Browsing in the Library

(reading groups next class)

Why Bother With This?

  1. I hope you can make one or more of the following discoveries:  information you didn’t know, a journal that interests you, or a topic that seizes you with desire for reading and writing.
  2. To experience how reading can serve as a catalyst for writing and thinking.
  3. Get introduced to your fellow writer and thinker’s work.
  4. You might begin to see how a personal blog, the NY Post, People Magazine, and the New England Journal of Medicine differ.  Who wrote these texts?
  5. To get acquainted with what I consider an exciting and intellectually stimulating place.

The Activity:  (take notes in your daybook)

  1. Walk over to the library with someone you don’t know very well, and chat with them about their intellectual interests.  What might they write about?  What is their major?  What are they really interested in?  Note your partner’s name and write down some of what they say to you.
  2. On the third floor of the library, you’ll see the most recent copies of publications St. John’s subscribes to.  I want you to GO SLOW and read the names of the journals and pause to flip through some of the pages.  These journals may first appear boring but end up being interesting.  When people miss the point of this activity, they go fast and just try to get it done.  Stay away from what you’d consider intellectually easy (for example, Sports Illustrated) and move toward something you’d say is more complex.  In your daybook, write down the names of three journals that look interesting to you.
  3. Next to the names of the three journals you’ve written down, choose 1 article from each journal that you might want to read.  Copy down the title of the article, the author’s name, and the page numbers that the article appears on.  For example, pgs. 13-43.
  4. Read at least 6 pages of an article.  If the article isn’t 6 pages in length, then read an additional article.  Copy down lines from the article that you find interesting.
  5. Using money on your Storm Card, photocopy at least one page of the article for reading groups next time.
  6. Be sure to note all the bibliographic information from the article you choose to read:  Author/s, Article Title, Journal Title, Volume, Issue, Date Published, Pages.


  1. For this week or next week, do a Reading For Writing (RFW) entry on your blog over the article you found in the library.  See the syllabus for a full description, but this means you’ll choose golden lines from the article.  Type up those lines in bold, and then free write after the quote sharing whatever the writing gets you to thinking about.
  2. Somewhere in the piece, tell us about who you visited with on the walk to the third floor.
  3. Be sure to use the “son of citation” website (or something like it) to give the full MLA works cited entry at the bottom of your post.
  4. Copy and paste that works cited entry into your “Reading Bibliography” tab on your blog.
  5. Print out a copy of the entry for reading groups next Wednesday.
  6. Be sure to bring your writing and the photocopied page to class next week.

Get the handout at TheTorg.Com

Homophobic, Chauvinistic, or Just an Inside Look?

Warning: Rated R Material.  Do you know Tosh from Comedy Central?  The first 13 pages of Wally Klam’s Sam the Cat and Other Stories had me feeling as if maybe Klam had channeled the comedian (or vice versa) for the narrator’s voice.  Yes, very funny, and yes, sometimes appalling.

Sam The Cat Wally Klam Tosh

Tosh From Comedy Central

I get that some people are addicted (or some other word) to having sex with as many people as possible, and I get that it’s eventually a very lonely lifestyle, but like a lot of other unhealthy habits (snorting lines of cocaine comes to mind) I don’t need to read hundreds of pages for this feature of a character to be established. Even if that’s all Matthew Klam’s book, Sam the Cat and Other Stories, was going to be (it is a lot more) it might have been worth reading anyway.

Klam can be irreverent in the voice of his characters.  He’ll give it to you straight, right from the mouth of some of the most sluttish (and what else?) men you’ve ever met.  Here’s the commentary of one character who suddenly finds himself sexually attracted to his girlfriend’s male friend:  “I made myself fuck Louise.  I didn’t want to—and she was the very picture of unconscious—but I had to…. Was I all of a sudden gay?  I went to sleep one night and woke up a homo?”  The voice of this particular character is the one who gives the collection its name.  “Sam the cat,” he tells us, “he bad and naughty.”

Prof. William Torg Torgerson  Wally Klam Sam the Cat

Sam The Cat and Other Stories

Beginning the second story, I was thinking maybe I was hearing from the same character.  Seeing as how I’d just read Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad, and that I’m in the middle of the publication of my own collection of overlapping stories, my mind has been stuck on looking hard for connections and making sense of them.  The narrators are different in each story.  This one’s in a slightly more serious relationship, and here he listens to his brother who speculates as to why he might be sterile:

“I smoked pot.”

“Pot doesn’t do anything.”

“Think about all those gay guys out there with good sperm who don’t even use it.”

“They use it.”

“How do you know?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Each story in the collection seems to contain a male narrator (except for the last one) who is in a more “serious” relationship with a woman.  We are taken from “Sam the Cat” on the prowl doing as many women as he can—perhaps as a way of proving to himself that he is NOT gay—all the way to a marriages and couples attending marriages.  The pages of this collection provide an uncensored peek into several male characters’ psyche, especially as pertaining to sexuality and emotional intimacy.  There’s also quite a bit about men not being able to perform sexually.  After all—as my wife had to point out to me (duh!)—there is a guy’s crotch front and center on the cover.

Bowery Poetry Club – Love, Lepers, and LA:

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I’m planning on making my first-ever visit to the Bowery Poetry Club this weekend (Sat. Sept. 25) to listen to my former professor Laura Newbern read from her new collection of poems.  That she used “purple” as a verb always makes me smile.

Bowery Poetry Club – Love, Lepers, and LA:.