Alec Michod

Posts from the “blog” Category

I miss you, Denis Johnson

Posted on May 26, 2017

“I stood at home plate, vomit on my blouse & whiskey in my blood, & heard the dirt of my hometown falling grain by grain out of the afternoon.”
#DenisJohnson, who wrote two perfect books & one sprawling, monstrous, ungainly masterpiece, national treasure, hearty soul, sober since 1983, I saw you read once & you shook my hand, your walnut knuckles, your jagged sentences riven w/ boisterous tragedy & heartbreak & that raw American sorrow, gone too soon, don’t go, come back, goddamnit.

Cortázar’s Apocalypse

Posted on April 13, 2017

The following is from Literature Class, a collection of eight lectures Julio Cortázar delivered at Berkeley in 1980. Translated by Katherine Silver.
What I wanted to say?—??and perhaps this is the reason for the misunderstanding?—??and what I will repeat now perhaps more clearly, is that at this time, above all, and very especially in Latin America considering the current circumstances, I never accept the kind of fantasy, the kind of fiction or imagination, that spins around itself and only itself, where you feel that the writer is creating a work of only fantasy and imagination, one that deliberately escapes from the reality that surrounds and confronts him and asks him to engage with it, have a dialogue with it in his books. Fantasy?—??the fantastic, the …


Posted on February 8, 2016

On this day in 2014, I had the great honor of interviewing the indomitable Peter Matthiessen for @lareviewofbooks. He’s one of my writing heroes. Far Tortuga shaped my early writing life as much as any book. I read the book to my mom while she was recovering from brain cancer & I have no doubt the haiku-like stillness & beauty of its fractured sentences helped guide us both through the swirling darkness.Although we met for only a few hours, Peter’s enormity of spirit touched me in profound ways. He lived one of the last great epic lives, ushering in the environmental movement w/ his journalism, trailblazing a new genre of nonfiction, which could come to be called “new journalism,” training for over a decade to become a …

Secret Octagon Society

Posted on September 2, 2015

My grandfather, Harold Milne Alexander, and his brother, Robert Alexander, started a group when they were in high school called the Secret Octagon Society (SOS).
In 1989, Robert was interviewed for an oral history project about architecture at the University of California at Los Angeles. The text of the entire interview is online here.
ALEXANDER: We had a meeting once a month or more frequently. I think it was just once a month. May have been once a week, that could be. Of course the refreshments were always the most important thing. But we also had a formalized agenda. We had officers, and we studied and followed Robert’s Rules of Order. We always had a well-balanced program. Somebody played a musical instrument; somebody put on a science experiment or whatever; somebody did some entertainment like …

Gentlemen’s Pugilist Association

Posted on April 23, 2015

They ended up at one of those secret no-name places, behind a bodega, up a flight of stairs, across a walkway, up more stairs, finally out onto a roof, over wood plank walkways through some kind of magical urban oasis overrun with plants, trees strung with hammocks and spindled with bright red chili-pepper lights, uncertain if Aran’d been there or had only heard of it from one of the guys in the Gentlemen’s Pugilist Association, maybe, or his shrink, or a new friend he’d made. For the last stretch, the walkway was painted yellow and Caitlin thought of the play Jonah’d been in, the yellow brick road, and when an older Puerto Rican man in a white suit over a T-shirt came over and …

Iggy Pop on ‘The White City’

Posted on June 8, 2014

Iggy Pop, the grandfather of punk, deejays a radio show on @BBC radio 6. During a recent episode, while introducing Chicagoan Howlin’ Wolf’s song “Killing Floor,” Iggy started talking about Chicago and its dark history—and he ended up plugging my novel, The White City.
You can listen to Mr. Pop—and his great Chicago-Detroit accent—here:

Peter Matthiessen: A Final Interview

Posted on April 7, 2014

Peter Matthiessen was the last great heroic American writer, I think. He was also the writer who made me need to write. I first read him on a family vacation, in 1993. My mom was recovering from an operation to remove a brain tumor and she had trouble reading. I read Far Tortuga aloud to her. I like to think it helped, somehow.
When I first heard Matthiessen was publishing a new novel, perhaps his last, I immediately launched a campaign to try to meet and talk to the man. I spoke to him two months before he passed away. He was still in the fog of chemotherapy but he was strong, encyclopedic, wise, playful, kind. The experience changed me.
Today, the world is too easily available on …


Posted on February 2, 2014

My grandfather on my mom’s side, Harold Milne Alexander, reputed distant relative of AA, inventor of Pooh, was himself an inventor. One of his most important innovations was figuring out how glass curved and could be safely used in automobiles. He was employed by Libbey-Owens-Ford, so he didn’t detain the patent, but he never seemed despondent about that. A different era, I suppose. By the time I knew him and hung out with him a lot, he was retired, but still making things: miniature boats, tankers and galleons and the like, remarkably lifelike, resplendent with gold flourishes, in his basement.
Here are some of his patents:


Harold Alexander’s father, Edwin, made mosaics for the IRT lines in Manhattan at the turn of the century. None have …

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