What’s wrong with the contemporary American medical system? What does it mean when a state’s democratic presidential primary casts 40% of its votes for a felon incarcerated in another state? What’s so bad about teaching by PowerPoint? What is truly the dirtiest word in America?
These are just a few of the engaging and controversial issues that Michael Blumenthal, poet, novelist, essayist, and law professor, tackles in this collection of poignant essays commissioned by West Virginia Public Radio.
In these brief essays, Blumenthal provides unconventional insights into our contemporary political, educational, and social systems, challenging us to look beyond the headlines to the psychological and sociological realities that underlie our conventional thinking.
As a widely published poet and novelist, Blumenthal brings along a lawyer’s analytical ability with his literary sensibility, effortlessly facilitating a distinction between the clichés of today’s pallid political discourse and the deeper realities that lie beneath. This collection will captivate and provoke those with an interest in literature, politics, law, and the unwritten rules of our social and political engagements.
I. ACHES AND PAINS
The Unkindest Cut of All
The Quality of Our Mercy
Sum of Its Parts
Vote With Your Feet!
The Lame of the Earth
II. ALMOST HEAVEN
The Wild, Not-So-Wonderful Whites of West Virginia
Tale of Two Countries
Voting, In Black and White
III. COUNTRY OF THE SECOND CHANCE
Country of the Second Chance
Some Truly Affirmative Action: A Farmer on the Supreme Court
The Business of America
BP And Our Human Shadow
Change We Don’t Believe In
Taking Back the Saddle
Right to Bear Harms
The Dirtiest Word in America
Gay Marriage and the Pursuit of Happiness
The Sweetest Dream That Labor Knows
Heroes with a Thousand Faces
A Modest Proposal
IV. OF MINDS AND MINDFULNESS
A Mind of Winter
College Days, Danger Days
On-Line & On Point, But Way Off Course
None of Your Business
In Praise of Doing Nothing
Michael Blumenthal is a Visiting Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Immigration Clinic at West Virginia University College of Law. A former Director of Creative Writing at Harvard University, he is the author of eight books of poetry, as well as All My Mothers and Fathers, a memoir; Weinstock Among The Dying, a novel; When History Enters the House, a collection of essays; and “Because They Needed Me”: The Incredible Struggle of Rita Miljo To Save The Baboons of South Africa, a book-length account of his work with orphaned infant chacma baboons in South Africa. His first collection of short stories, The Greatest Jewish-American Lover in Hungarian History, is forthcoming.
“The intellect of a scholar, the sensitivity of a poet, the objectivity of a professor of law: it hardly seems possible that so many virtues can be embodied in one book of short talks.”
“Engaging, astute, and eloquent.”
"David Sedaris and Ira Glass have a brother from another mother, and his name is Michael Blumenthal. His soulful NPR essays are profound thought-clouds from one of America's finest poets."
“Michael Blumenthal has had many professions—lawyer, psychotherapist, poet, professor, travel writer, novelist—and somehow these different professional perspectives blend together perfectly in his latest incarnation as a commentator for NPR. He writes with prickly piquancy and gleeful eclecticism over a broad range of topics—but is always, in the tradition of our best essayists, speaking from the baseline of his own humanity.“
“An enjoyable and liberating read.”