Skip to main content

Michael Blumenthal

March 2014
PB  978-1-938228-77-3
ePub 978-1-938228-78-0


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.




The Unkindest Cut of All

The Quality of Our Mercy

Sum of Its Parts

Vote With Your Feet! 

The Lame of the Earth


The Wild, Not-So-Wonderful Whites of West Virginia 

Tale of Two Countries

Voting, In Black and White

Foul Play!



Country of the Second Chance

Immigration Nation

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




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.”
C.K. Williams, American poet, critic and translator, and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

“Engaging, astute, and eloquent.”
Meenakshi Gigi Durham, author of The Lolita Effect and Professor and Collegiate Scholar at University of Iowa

 "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."
Dalton Delan is an Executive Producer of In Performance at the White House for PBS

“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.“
Ross McElwee, Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University

“An enjoyable and liberating read.”
Craig Manning, Independent Publisher