Book Signing Update: Running for their Lives

Two years ago now Steve and I were each struggling with knee
injuries while training for a "Train to End Stroke" marathon.  Thanks
to many of you, we managed to raise a total of ten thousand dollars and
although disappointed to not be able to run 26.2 miles because of
complaining knees, we did each run and complete the Kona, Hawaii half

That’s how we met Karl Gruber.  He sold us sneakers.  Several pairs
as I recall.  Karl is an expert when it comes to sneakers, and for good
reason.  Having run 52 marathons in 52 weeks to raise funds and awareness to fight Leukemia, he’s probably spent a small fortune on his own sneakers.Running

We’re pleased to inform you that Karl has written a book about his experience called "Running For Their Lives"

"The text tells the story of Gruber, a marathon runner from Hide-A-Way
Hills, Ohio, who left his home and job to travel across North America
and participated in fifty-two grueling marathons within fifty-two
weeks. Calling the tour a “Super Run for the Cure”, Gruber did it all
to raise money and awareness regarding leukemia research. From TV to
radio and print media interviews, Gruber worked tirelessly and
religiously to inspire as many people as he could in one of the most
amazing displays of heroism by an athlete."

Karl.  We’re proud to say we know ya.  What?  You say your first book
signing is on Sunday, May 13 from Noon to 5 PM at FrontRunner" (1344 W.
Lane Ave., Columbus, OH)?  OK.  See you then!

Connie and Steve

UPDATE 5/11/2007:  Karl has informed us his book signing has been postponed.  Hopefully he will keep us informed.
UPDATE 5/24/2007:  A new message from Karl:

The book signing of my book "Running For Their Lives" has officially been rescheduled for Sunday, June 3 from noon to 5PM. at FrontRunner on Lane Ave. in Upper Arlington (Ohio).  I really look forward to seeing any and all of you who can make it! Let your friends and family know, too!        "gotta Run!",     – Karl


The Book Blog

Bill Eichenberger, friend and book critic of the Columbus Dispatch, has started a new blog and we are proud to introduce it to you here on the Planet of the Blind.  According to Bill, his goal for The Book Blog

"is for the blog to be, in a modest way, all things to all book lovers.
And I hope the comment threads can give people in central Ohio (and farther
afield) a place to converse."

Visit his blog and the first thing you will learn is that

"Bill Eichenberger joined The Dispatch in
1985 and became the pop music critic in 1989, a position he held for
nine years until he replaced George Myers, Jr. (the original Dispatch
blogger) as the book critic in 1997.

Eichenberger contends that he added 50 points to his IQ the day he became book critic and insists
that “my worst interview with an author was still better than my best
interview with a musician.”

Eichenberger will blog about books — at least until Americans forsake the written word and give themselves over entirely to American Idol."

In one of his very first posts this month Bill asks the question "The future of book reviews?" and links to an article in which there is a quote by Maud Newton, who has been writing a literary blog since 2002.  Our readers know that Lance Mannion, besides being a literary blogger (among other things), is our friend and mentor and he says that Maud Newton is "To Be Read First Thing in the Morning".  Check his blogroll.  You’ll see.

Bill Eichenberger has done Steve the honor of reviewing both his books, in print  – in the Columbus Dispatch – and we are pleased to find this little way to "pay it forward". 

Gosh, and while I’m thinking of it, I’ve got to find a way to introduce Bill to ohdave of Into My Own.  Ohdave (yet another friend/literary blogger) has a weekly feature he calls "Sunday Reading" and he too was kind enough to review Steve’s book and to post some of his poetry. 

So Bill, meet Lance and ohdave.  Lance, meet Bill and ohdave.  ohdave, meet Bill and Lance.

There.  I think my work here is done for the day.

~ Connie


I feel like changing the subject here this morning.  My dear husband bought for me over a year ago a gift certificate for two for a horseback trail ride in the Hocking Hills of Ohio and two days ago my dear friend Sharon and I finally went on our ride.  What can I say?  It was a picture perfect day.  We enjoyed our chatty guide, the scenery, and especially our mounts.  It’s been a long time since I’ve gone horseback riding.  I almost forgot how much I REALLY enjoy it.

I used to take lessons, first as a teenager then as an adult, but then life got in the way and well, need I say more?  I took dressage lessons.  Learned a few (very few) moves.  Learned to jump a few fences.  Learned what it feels like to fall off.  I was never really any good.  There is only so much you can accomplish on horseback with a once a week hour long lesson.  But I certainly learned to appreciate the sport. 

If you’ve never taken lessons and you’ve never tried to ask such a large animal to do something akin to "horse ballet" it might be hard to truly appreciate the following video clip.  But even if you haven’t, this clip is worth seeing.  Suffice it to say that this rider is working very hard to get his horse to do this using his hands, fingers, legs and pelvis.  But you’d never know it by looking at him.  Both rider and mount make it look so darn easy.  Watch this mare dance to music while her rider helps her to keep tempo.  Keep watching.  It only gets better!  To me this is pure majesty…  WOW.

Thanks for sharing the clip Sharon.

~ Connie

The Lance Mannion way

I have it on good authority that Lance Mannion writes his blog posts directly into his blogging software’s composition window as opposed to say, writing with WordPad or Word or Oingo Boingo or some other word processing program.  Lance you see is a white hot explosion of dendrites and dander; a viscous Vicount of Vituperation; a Free Falling Festschrifter…He’s a REAL blogger, not one of these amateur drive your grandma around the block in order to prove that you’ve passed your driving test kind of bloggers.  Nope.  Lance is big as Mt. Rushmore; big as all the dental floss in Montana.

Meanwhile I’m a little guy in "the blogosphere" and there’s no help for it.  I don’t think this comparative teensy-weensy-ness in the cyber Babylon has to do with the fact that I write about disability but rather that I am essentially a really small person.  I am officially five feet seven inches tall, but I’m really really small.  I’m smaller than P.T. Barnum’s Tom Thumb.  I’m smaller than Dick Cheney’s heart.  I’m smaller than Barry Bonds’ conscience; smaller than the book of rules for "scissors, rock, paper"…

I didn’t start out small.  I used to have an immense corpus both "in" and "outside" my essential postural entity.  But I shrank.  I spent too many years listening to American television and I got to the point where I actually believed that it was okay to show lurid tabloid stories over and over in lieu of real news. This insidious tabloidization of my psyche made me small.

I am prepared to say that after a decade of watching Law and Order and the local news I’m smaller than a hermit thrush. I am sadly not as musical as the hermit thrush but that’s another story.

I think Lance Mannion can both watch tv and remain "big".  He’s amazing.  But I’m "outing" myself.  I’m unable to maintain anything like a human scale largely because of the effects of everything from the Gong Show to the Star Trek re-runs that I find whenever I can’t sleep.

Okay.  Getting small while watching tv isn’t new.  But Lance, he actually gets bigger while watching the tube.  And there’s no "double entendre" here.  I don’t mean to suggest that he watches one of those nudist specialty channels like they have in New York, you know, where old celebrities sit around naked and talk about Italian football.

No, I mean Lance watches genuine big time tv and he’s still smart.

I once read Yeats’s book "A Vision" which is about spiritual forces in the evolving universe and I thought for a moment that I understood it.  But tv?  Look what it’s done to me!  I’m smaller than a raisin in Lapland.  Maybe after some good corrective post-television "time out" I will be large enough to explain why Neil Postman was not exactly right when he wrote Amusing Ourselves to Death and suggested that tv represents the end of critical thinking in America.  Look at Lance!  Look to Norway!  He’s big!  I wish I could multi-task like Lance!  But you know, when I watch tv I forget to chew.  I forget the name of the town I’m visiting.  I get so small while watching tv that I can sleep in one of my own shoes.  My shoe, by the way, smells like my freshman college dorm room.  More on that later.


Of Xanadu and Kubla Khan

I have written two memoirs that are respectively and in part concerned with the subject of my family and the matter of disability.  If you have read those books you know that my mother and father were deeply divided about my blindness when I was a boy.  They knew the "facts" concerning my disability but they had little or no emotional language that might enable our family to talk about the daily realities that accompany visual impairment.

The gap between empirical knowledge and emotional intelligence is a common problem for families that are faced with disability.  I think it’s also the case that this language gap happens when family’s face almost anything they weren’t counting on: teenage pregnancy, drug addiction, alcoholism, an unfaithful spouse–all these problems naturally come to mind.

The difference with disability is that unlike the other circumstances you can’t really deny its existence for more than about sixty seconds, which is about how long the average person can hold his or her breath.  You can pretend that grandma is eccentric for years even as she sequentially sets fire to the living room furniture and wrecks several station wagons.  She’s not a drunk.  She’s gravitationally challenged; she’s "spiritual"; by God she’s a genius!

Even though my family liked to pretend that I wasn’t blind, I always "was" and the story of our growth together has everything to do with learning the emotional language of disability.

Another way to think about this is to imagine that the idea that you can "not think" about disability is as ridiculous as eating opium.  Everybody knows the story of Samuel Taylor Coleridge who began writing his visionary and Romantic poem "Kubla Khan" while under the influence of laudanum.  The poem was coming along nicely when suddenly a local laboring man knocked on Coleridge’s door and interrupted the poet’s "Magical Mystery Tour".  Coleridge was never able to complete the poem and it is routinely reprinted in anthologies to this day, largely as an example of "what might have been".

I’ve always thought of the Kubla Khan story as being a kind of disability narrative.  Disability always knocks and interrupts what you were thinking about.

In turn, I guess you could say that disability asks us to live out in the open and to use our poetic gifts in the service of community.  This is why I believe that so much good contemporary literary writing has been done by people who have chosen to talk about disability in their lives.  Writers like Ralph Savarese, Floyd Skloot, Anne Finger, Kenny Fries, come to mind and of course there are hundreds more.

I owe a good deal to my parents even though they were slow to learn the language of disability.  They encouraged me to take up writing and they understood that progress is progress, even if you don’t always like the new names you have to give it.  My parents didn’t like the fact that I was blind but they learned to talk about it and even admire it.

This is what good families do: we learn new emotional languages together.  One day your daughter announces that she’s marrying someone you can scarcely imagine in your midst.  And then you do imagine it.  And then, after years, you think it was your idea all along.

Thank God for families, even with all their flaws!

Steve Kuusisto

Turtles on a Fence Post

I watched part of the Tony Blair-George W. Bush news conference and was reminded of the old folk story about the turtle on a fence post.  Here were two men who know that their respective places in history will be circumscribed by the course of events in Iraq.  They can’t imagine how this turtle got on top of that fence post.  And so of course they talked about courage and they spoke about the hard decisions that leaders must make and they spoke affirmingly of their corresponding strength of purpose.

The trouble is that for George W. Bush the war in Iraq was always meant to be nothing more than a theatrical production.  It was supposed to be easy.  It was never meant to be a war on terror.  Iraq was nothing more than an extravaganza.  And when it quickly became a civil war with a swift infusion of real terrorists Bush failed to put enough troops on the ground to manage the situation.  We don’t have to wait for history to know these things.

I am certain that our nation’s current course of action is utterly wrong.  No rational person inside or outside the military believes that we should keep our troops in a civil war.

But courage in this instance requires more than the social semiotics of the turtle on the fence post.  Iraq is not the front line in the "war on terror"–it’s a blunder  that looks and smells like imperialist occupation and the sooner the U.S. gets out the sooner we can work toward peaceful solutions for the many conflicts that are heating up across the Middle East.

Such a move will look at first like defeat.  But it won’t be.  History assures us of that.

Life In Wartime

There are bodies that stay home and keep living.

Wisteria and Queen Anne’s Lace

But women and children too.

And countless men at gasoline stations.

Schoolteachers who resemble candles,

Boys with metabolisms geared to the future,

Musicians trying for moon effects…

The sky, which cannot expire, readies itself with clouds

Or a perfect blue

Or halos or the amoebic shapes

Of things to come.

The railway weeds are filled with water.

How do living things carry particles

Of sacrifice? Why are gods talking in the corn ?

Enough to feel the future underfoot.

Someone is crying three houses down.

Many are gone or are going.



A Chautauqua Institution Invitation

Mark Your Calendar: Join Steve at the Chautauqua Institution!

  • WHAT:  Book reading and presentation for Eavesdropping at the 2007 Chautauqua Literary & Scientific Circle series of book presentations
  • WHEN:  Thursday, August 16, 2007 at 4:00 p.m.
  • WHERE:  Hall of Philosophy at the Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, NY
  • MORE INFO:  view WEEK 8 by following this link

Is this exciting or what?  Come join us, won’t you?

~ Connie