The writer, who died this week aged 71, began his career late in his tumultuous life, exploding onto the literary scene with his Vietnam story The Pugilist at Rest
Thom Jones, the Illinois-born short-story writer who has died, aged 71, of complications from diabetes, rocketed onto the literary scene in 1991, when the New Yorker published his Vietnam War story The Pugilist at Rest. But Jones was no wunderkind: he was in his mid-40s when fame arrived, and had already lived a tumultuous and fascinatingly varied life.
Joness father a schizophrenic who killed himself was a boxer, and arranged lessons for Jones from a young age. When Jones enlisted as a Force Recon Marine in the 1960s, it was a boxing match that prevented him from shipping out to Vietnam with the rest of his platoon, all but one of whom would be killed in action. Instead Jones, badly beaten by a fellow soldier, was discharged from the army with temporal lobe epilepsy the same type of epilepsy it is believed that Dostoevsky suffered from.
A civilian again, Jones enrolled in college, and in the early 1970s took the MFA in creative writing at the Iowa Writers Workshop. He didnt walk straight into a book deal like some of his classmates, however. Instead he became an advertising copywriter, and later a janitor. During the 11 years he was janitor he claims to have read roughly 10,000 books. This was reading that had to be done, he told an interviewer in 1998, and most people working at professional jobs just dont have that kind of leisure. During this period, and up until the mid-1980s, Jones struggled with alcoholism. He developed diabetes, and also suffered from depression. He remained on a lot of medication for the rest of his life, one of numerous biographical facts reflected in his fictional characters, who are among the most frequent pill poppers in literature.
Overcoming his alcohol addiction seemed to be the biggest factor in Jones being able to produce the stories he wrote in the early 1990s. For me it was easy, he said, perhaps disingenuously: Produce a text that was so good, an editor could not reject it. There is another parallel here with Dostoevsky, often referred to in Joness stories. When he was writing The Idiot, a novel whose protagonist, Prince Myshkin, experiences several temporal lobe-type seizures, he explained to a friend why he had abandoned a first draft: I said to hell with it all. I assure you that the novel could have been satisfactory, but I got incredibly fed up with it precisely because of the fact that it was satisfactory and not absolutely good.
Just how easy it was for Jones is debatable, but The Pugilist at Rest was undeniably too good to be rejected. A first-person account of a marine who becomes the sole survivor of an ambush in the Vietnamese DMZ, the story, as with many of Joness stories, powerfully conflates autobiography and fiction, and weaves hypnotically between dramatic scenes and essayistic digressions. Jones uses the image of the Roman statue The Pugilist at Rest, based on an earlier Greek original, as a way in to discussing the marriage of violence and art. He wonders if the statue depicts Theogenes, the greatest boxer in antiquity:
The sort of boxing Theogenes practiced was not like modern-day boxing with those kindergarten Queensberry Rules. The two contestants were not permitted the freedom of a ring. Instead, they were strapped to flat stones, facing each other nose-to-nose. When the signal was given, they would begin hammering each other with fists encased in heavy leather thongs. It was a fight to the death. Fourteen hundred and twenty-five times Theogenes was strapped to the stone and fourteen hundred and twenty-five times he emerged a victor.
The narrator tells us that Theogenes fought at the approximate time of Homer, the greatest poet who ever lived. Then, as now, violence, suffering, and the cheapness of life were the rule. The narrator himself embodies this divide between culture and violence. He quotes Schopenhauer and Dostoevsky, but he also viciously attacks a fellow trainee marine, and later describes the reservoir of malice, poison, and vicious sadism in my soul that poured forth freely in the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam.
The central relationship in The Pugilist at Rest, between the narrator and his buddy Jorgesen, is often repeated in Joness work. Its there in the relationship between the young narrator and the boxing trainer and surrogate father Frank Coles in As of July 6, I Am Responsible for No Debts Other Than My Own, and between the boxer Prestone and his alcoholic trainer Moore in Rocket Man, Joness favourite of his own stories. But these man-to-man relationships were not the only ones Jones was interested in. I Want to Live!, selected by John Updike for his Best American Stories of the Century anthology, is a monologue by a woman dying of cancer. A Midnight Clear, one of the pieces Jones described as his nuthouse stories, describes a woman and her stepson going to visit a schizophrenic cousin in the state hospital. 40, Still at Home presents an aging, hypochondriac son tormenting his genuinely sick mother.
Joness legacy, however, will be defined by his Vietnam stories, uncannily authentic-seeming explorations of a reality that he was bound for but never actually experienced. That fact gives an obsessional, guilt-ridden sense to his constant returns to these same characters who, like the soldiers of Tim OBriens The Things They Carried, pass from story to story, a bit part player in one becoming the lead in another.
At the end of The Pugilist at Rest the narrator expresses a sense of guilt that he has taken the credit for killing North Vietnamese soldiers that his dead friend Jorgesen killed. When I think back on it, he writes, my tale probably did not sound as credible as I thought it had at the time. I was only 19 years old and not all that practiced a liar. Are these solely the words of Joness narrator, or do they speak to the misgivings of a writer who was often mistakenly described by reviewers as a Vietnam veteran? A fascinating obsession appears to lie at the heart of Joness fiction, one that generated some of the most visceral acts of imagination of the last 25 years.
Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge?
Of course you do. It was that viral video campaign that took off last summer where you’d log into Facebook and see a steady stream of your friends dumping water on themselves in the name of awareness and research for the ALS Association.
Some brushed the movement off as an example of “slacktivism,” but it actually helped raise more than $100 million. When you compare it to the $2.8 million raised by the organization during the same period a year earlier, it’s clear that the Ice Bucket challenge paid off.
ALS, also known as amyotrophic laterals sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, affects an estimated 30,000 living people at any given time.
It’s a disorder that affects nerve and muscle function. Just 20% of those with the disease will live more than five years following diagnosis. It’s brutal.
But there’s good news due, in part, to the money raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge.
During a reddit “Ask Me Anything” session, ALS researcher Jonathan Ling unveiled a major breakthrough in his work.
Ling wanted to do an “Ask Me Anything” to debunk some of the negative things being said by skeptics about the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge.
“I mainly wanted to do this [“Ask Me Anything”] because I remember reading a lot of stories about people complaining that the ice bucket challenge was a waste and that scientists weren’t using the money to do research, etc. I assure you that this is absolutely false,” Ling writes.
“All of your donations have been amazingly helpful and we have been working tirelessly to find a cure. With the amount of money that the ice bucket challenge raised, I feel that there’s a lot of hope and optimism now for real, meaningful therapies.”
So what’s the big breakthrough? Well, it has to do with protein or rather, one specific protein.
Ling’s research focuses on TDP-43, a protein in cells that’s he’s been able to link to ALS.
Ling breaks down the purpose of TDP-43 with an analogy involving a library that’s easy for us non-scientist types to understand:
“DNA is located in the nucleus of a cell. You can think of a nucleus as a library except that instead of having books neatly lined up on shelves, the books in a nucleus have all of their pages ripped out and thrown around randomly.
To sort through this mess, the cell has great librarians that go around collecting all these pages, collating them and neatly binding them together as books. These librarians then ship these ‘books’ out of the nucleus so that other workers in the cell can do their jobs. Think of these books as instruction manuals.
TDP-43 is a very special type of librarian. TDP-43’s job is to ensure that nucleus librarians don’t accidentally make a mistake and put a random nonsense page (usually filled with gibberish) into the books that they ship out. If one of these nonsense pages makes it into an ‘instruction manual,’ the workers in the cell get really confused and mess things up. For terminology, we call these nonsense pages ‘cryptic exons.'”
His team found that in 97% of ALS cases, TDP-43 wasn’t doing its job. And now that they know this, they’ve been able to begin work on new therapies to do TDP-43’s job for it. If successful, he believes this can slow down the progression of the disease.
How cool is that?
But what about the other 3%? Well, we don’t have all the answers just yet.
One redditor asked that question, and essentially, it boils down to the fact that ALS is still pretty unpredictable. While TDP-43 may play a large part in the disease’s progression, it’s not the whole picture. For those individuals for whom ALS runs in the family, that seems to be linked to a gene called SOD1, and not TDP-43.
That’s why research needs to continue.
“When you look at ALS from a genetics perspective, about 10% of the cases are called ‘familial’, [that is], lots of people in the family have ALS and it seems to be passed down. The other 90% of ALS appears to occur completely by unfortunate chance and we call that ‘sporadic.’
As researchers, we look to the genetics for clues to study the disease. One of the first family-linked genes discovered was a gene called SOD1 that is found in about 30% of familial cases. But it’s starting to seem like SOD1 is an outlier because TDP-43 doesn’t seem to be messed up. Instead, SOD1 seems to clump together due to the mutation. We get the 3% because 30% of 10% familial is 3%.” Ling
But yeah, this is pretty neat, exciting stuff!
Ling hopes to have therapies based on his research making their way to clinical trials within the next two-three years.
And from there, who knows? Maybe this is the breakthrough that sets up the next big step in finding a cure for this absolutely ruthless disorder. 76 years after it first entered the public consciousness with Lou Gehrig’s emotional farewell speech, a cure feels closer than ever before.
Last year, we shared a video by Anthony Carbajal, a man who had been recently diagnosed with ALS.
ALS runs in Carbajal’s family. His grandmother, his mother, and he have all been diagnosed with the disorder. His Ice Bucket Challenge video was powerful because it put a face to the research and the desperation for a cure.
The research made possible by the Ice Bucket Challenge gives hope to people like Anthony. It’s just so important.
Saying that 30,000 people live with ALS doesn’t mean a whole lot until you see the pain it causes those living with it and watching their loved ones do battle. When you watch Anthony’s video, his tears welling up in his eyes, it’s clear just how much the world needed something like the Ice Bucket Challenge to fund the research we need to put an end to ALS once and for all.
If you’ve been online this week, you’ve probably seen something about the semicolon tattoo.
But in case you haven’t, here’s the short version: It’s a tattoo that represents mental health struggles and the importance of suicide prevention.
I wrote an article about it earlier this week. When we posted it on Facebook, our readers shared inspiring messages, stories, and words of encouragement for one another, and many also posted pictures of their own semicolon tattoos.
I was blown away by the responses and reached out to several of the people who posted their own photos.
They were happy to share their tattoos and stories. I was touched by what they told me, and I hope you also find encouragement, hope, and inspiration in their words. Here are their stories.
1. A mom and her daughters, fighting together.
Denise and her daughters, Tayler and Olivia, got their semicolon tattoos right before they participated in the “Out of the Darkness” walk for suicide.
“My oldest daughter’s first boyfriend died by suicide two years ago,” Denise said. “Additionally, both of my girls have major depressive disorders and have struggled with ideation of suicide and self-harm.”
“We treat their depression like any other disease, and are hopeful our tattoos will help counter the social stigma associated with mental illness and depression.“
2. It’s not a trend it’s a permanent reminder to keep going.
After being diagnosed with depression in 2005, Natalie LeFaivre got her semicolon tattoo in 2014 “as a reminder to me every day that with every step I take, my story isn’t over.”
“People ask all the time what it means,” she said. “I used to be embarrassed about what I have gone through, but now if I can help out just one person, it’s worth it.”
“People may think it is dumb or just a trend but to those of us who have gone through depression or other things, it means so much more,” she said. “And it is a permanent reminder to ourselves to continue to love who we are and to keep going.“
3. She’s never alone or unloved.
“I have suffered from depression since I was a teenager and now have a daughter suffering from depression and bipolar,” Desirea said after sharing her butterfly semicolon tattoo. “My best friend and I got the tattoos to provide a visual reminder of never being alone or unloved.“
4. It’s not just a tattoo it’s protection from herself.
Kasey Tourangeau said, “I got [my tattoos] as a reminder that life is for living. They help me to cope and remember that there is more than the hurt you’re feeling in the moment. They protect me from me.”
“I have (and still am) going through rough times. I suffered in silence from self harm, because I didn’t know who to turn to or what to say. Too many times I have wanted to end my life and through reading stories about these foundations, I found my light.”
“‘Love’ on my wrist has come from the TWOLHA foundation. It told me to love myself, even when I didn’t think there was anything to love. The semicolon came as a reminder: when things get bad, just take a pause and continue living. The butterfly around it not only represented life, but also the ‘butterfly project’ something I relied on when I was younger to stop hurting myself. If you cut the butterfly, you kill them. They protect you from you, for all intents and purposes.”
5. “I am here for a reason.”
44-year-old mom and survivor Serina Simmons used to cut herself in high school and attempted suicide at the age of 17.
“I have had severe depression since I was very young and have had to learn how to cope with it for the sake of my four children,” she said. “My tattoo is mainly for myself, to remind me that I am here for a reason. It is also a promise to myself and my kids that I will be strong and complete my story.”
6. Awareness and support matter.
Bill Glennon is glad for the awareness the semicolon tattoo is spreading. “This has a growing awareness,” he said. “And that is good in my book. We need the support.”
7. It represents a second chance and memorializes someone who didn’t make it.
“I decided to get my tattoo after recent events regarding my brother, as he is in a really bad place at the moment. Since he likes tattoos, it seemed perfect,” Kerrieanne Derbyshire said about her tattoo.
“I turned it into a butterfly, as butterflies represent the soul and I feel like personally I have a second chance after suffering from depression myself and seeking help. The butterfly is also for my cousin who lost her battle.”
8. People are showing support for family members who are struggling.
Amy Purnest (left) and her best friend got semicolon tattoos together. Amy did it for her cousin, who deals with depression.
When Amy’s cousin told her about The Semicolon Tattoo Project, her cousin explained, “There are days the depression almost wins. Every time I see that tattoo, or someone with ‘love’ on their arm, it reminds me there’s hope.'”
“I got it for her,” Amy said. “And if over the course of my lifetime just one person sees my tattoo and it makes them feel the same way, then it was worth it.“
9. And they’re showing support for friends who are struggling.
Joseph D’Amico shared, “I did this for my friend’s daughter about a year ago.”
Call it a trend, call it a movement, call it whatever you like, but the bottom line is this: The semicolon tattoo is a sign of survival, hope, and awareness. And that’s what matters.
So you’ve completed your book. Its been edited and published, and now you’re trying to figure out how to get to your potential readers. While beginning your marketing campaign usually happens well before your book is completed, getting your first reviews can’t happen until your book is done or in a final draft status.
Many stores won’t carry a small press or self-published book that doesn’t have reviews from a recognizable publication. So how do you get someone to pay attention to your book among all of the hundreds, if not thousands, of submissions they see every month?
City Book Review, publishers of the San Francisco Book Review, Manhattan Book Review and Kids’ BookBuzz all have programs to help you. Kids BookBuzz is only for kids, tweens and young adult books, but the other two will take almost any book you have (including children’s books).
So how do you get your book reviewed by the San Francisco Book Review?
If your book is within 90 days of the publications date, you can submit it for general review (at no cost). The closer you are to the 90 days, the less of a chance it will have to be reviewed, but you can still start there. The SFBR gets more than 1000 submissions a month, and only reviews 300 or less, so your likelihood of getting your book reviewed in this way is less than 33%. But you can give it a try and see if it gets reviewed.
General Submission Guidelines – http://www.sanfranciscobookreview.com/submission-guidelines/general-submission/
If your book is more than 90 days past its publishing date, or you really want to have it reviewed and don’t want to just hope it’ll get picked up through the general review, you can go through the Sponsored Review program. While there is some controversy about paying for a review, SFBR is a respected publication like Kirkus or Foreward Reviews and doesn’t offer vanity reviews for payment. You can expect the same level of professionalism from their standard reviews. And they don’t mark sponsored reviews any different than the other reviews.
Get My Book Reviewed from the San Francisco Book Review – http://sanfranciscobookreview.com/submission-guidelines/sponsored-review/
Get My Book Reviewed from the San Francisco Book Review
There are a lot of different options for getting your book reviewed, mostly around how long it takes to get your review back, and if you want more than one or an interview as well.
- Standard Reviews Take 8-10 weeks for turnaround from the time they receive your book Start at
- Expedited Reviews Take 3-5 weeks for turnaround from the time they receive your book Start at
- Get more than one review for the same book you’ll get a discount on the normal cost of 2 or 3 reviews. Reviews range in price from $150 to $299.
- Getting a podcast interview for Audible Authors to promote yourself and your book, and you can add an interview to a review package at a discount.
And if you really like your review, you can have it posted on the other publication’s website for $99, or get a new review from a different reviewer. Both can help with your marketing and search engine optimization.
So how do you get your book reviewed by the Manhattan Book Review?
The Manhattan Book Review uses the same format for the San Francisco Book Review. Different audience, so if you’re an East Coast author, you might be more interested in having the credit from MBR over SFBR. Personal taste is the only difference between the two for reviews. If you are a local SF or Manhattan author, they will also flag that in your review.
General Review Submission Guidelines for the Manhattan Book Review – http://manhattanbookreview.com/get-my-book-reviewed/general-submission/
Sponsored Review Submission Guidelines for the Manhattan Book Review – http://manhattanbookreview.com/get-my-book-reviewed/sponsored-reviews/
So how do you get your book reviewed by Kids’ BookBuzz?
First thing, all of the reviews for Kids’ BookBuzz are done by kids. They are select age appropriate books, but the kids read them and write the reviews themselves. The younger kids have some help from their parents, but the words are all theirs. Don’t expect any easy reviews either. These kids see a lot of stories, so they know good books when they read them.
General Submission Guidelines for Kids’ BookBuzz – http://kidsbookbuzz.com/get-my-book-reviewed-by-a-kid/general-submission/
Sponsored Review Submission Guidelines for Kids’ BookBuzz – http://kidsbookbuzz.com/get-my-book-reviewed-by-a-kid/sponsored-reviews/
For three years, Dan and his wife Leah tried to get pregnant. And for three years, the couple from theCincinnati, Ohio found themselves caught in a seemingly endless cycle of struggle and perseverance.There werehormones for Leah. Intrauterine insemination, needles, and anxiety-ridden ultrasounds. Insurance issues. Financial strain. Thefact Dan and Leah wereintheir late 30s, and “clocks are ticking.” Not to mention those awkward moments when other peoplewould ask when they were going to have kids.
It was a lot to handle, to say the least, but together Dan and Leah pressed on.
Recently, Dan took to Facebook to pen an open letter describing the journey towards pregnancy from a very detailed description of what it’s like to make a sperm deposit, to trying to put into words the heartbreaking experience of miscarriage. Dan’s message is so brutally honest, so raw and real, and so eloquently (and even hilariously) written that it’s going viral and starting a whole new conversation about pregnancy.
“Do you have a minute? Ive got kind of a long story,” Dan begins.
Trust me, you want to hear this.
Credit: Facebook / Dan Majesky
Although some people claim that they can read anywhere, anytime, we all know that a comfortable, well lit, soft spot is ideal. On a blanket in a park is one such perfect spot; on dry, spongy moss, under a tree, is another good location. But what happens if you’re a city dweller (or not even!), and outdoor reading spots are at a premium?
Bored Panda has collected this list of reading nooks for you, those indoor bookworms that maybe like to read outside, but who also need a comfortable place inside to get the pages turning. Which reading nook looks most comfortable to you? Vote, or submit a picture of your own reading nook below! (h/t)