posted by Caroline Picard

Tobias’ book is out! And it’s beautiful. A super-high end limited edition of 25, An Implausibility of Gnus comes in a box with individual story cards, beveled corners and all, on the inside. It’s great and it’s absurdly cheap. So check out the link and pick one up!

In the words of publishers, Another New Calligraphy:

An Implausibility of Gnus is the product of Bengelsdorf’s compulsive pick-pocketing from the coats of the American psyche. Over 30 short and shorter stories pack into the collection, each revealing sparkling tidbits of the ordinary or ordinary disclosures of the fantastical: kitchen slop and siphophores, travel and murder. Connect the dots if you care to, or just marvel at the rounded corners and think about swimming.


April 13, 2009

posted by tobias amadon bengelsdorf

I like to keep a list of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad movie (and some tv) lines, as a reminder of what not to write. Some highlights are:

“I had a nightmare, a terrible nightmare!”

“It’s over. None of that happened.”


“Buckle your seatbelt Dorothy, cause Kansas is going bye-bye.”


“Because I was inverted.” (video below)

Those are some of the worst ones, but there are lots more. But I can’t watch everything. So please give me some of your suggestions.

posted by Tobias Amadon Bengelsdorf

I explain what An Exasperation is here.

“Please be sure to check the area around you, and take all of your personal belongings.” I really hate it when the train/bus voice says this to me.

“Personal belongings.” Is there another kind? I have never, to the best of my knowledge, had any non-personal belongings. What would those be, exactly? Public belongings? Something from work that you took with you on the train, that you are carrying even though it doesn’t actually belong to you? Does the message imply that such items be left behind?

Point? The word “personal” is essentially useless. That’s the point.

According to, “belongings” are “1. something that belongs.
2. belongings, possessions; goods; personal effects.”

And, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, “A personal item that one owns; a possession. Often used in the plural.”

Gah! The word “personal” is in the definition of “belongings.” So what, exactly, does “personal belongings” mean?

But even in these definitions, do we need the “personal”? “A personal item that one owns”? Why not, “An item that one owns”? The “personal” doesn’t change the meaning. Even in the definition of the word “personal,” most of the examples don’t need the word “personal.” It doesn’t add anything. “That’s my personal opinion.” “That’s my opinion.” What’s the difference between those two statements? I’ll tell you: there isn’t one.

It might be an important word in a very few situations, such as when making a distinction between a professional opinion and a personal opinion. A lawyer might say, “it is my professional opinion that you remain calm and follow the law, even though my personal opinion is that you should go ballistic and exact wildly violent revenge.”

I think these types of situations are few enough that we could do away with “personal” and not much notice the difference.

Here is another common usage:

“Four or five personal friends of mine.” Again, is there another kind?

And, my very favorite of all, from, in reference to … wait for it … The Podcopter! (no lie):

“Could this new aircraft become available for your personal commute?”

(If it becomes available for any other kind of commute I’m gonna sue.)

Am I wrong? I am missing something about personal? Let me know.


March 30, 2009

I was working on a post about how it seems like every movie made is adapted from a book, but then I had a really weird day, so I’ll save that post for another time.

I got on the ole’ x49 today, to head down to work, and just south of the O’Hare Blue Line stop, this woman started acting all weird. She was making strange guttural sounds, and waving her hand around, and stomping her foot. I thought she was just another bus-loony. Then a man nearer where she was sitting said, “she’s having a seizure.” Well, duh, yeah, as soon as he said it, it was clear that she was not just another bus-loony, but was in fact having a seizure. The guy told the driver, who pulled the bus over, and called EMS.

By that time the seizure was over, but the woman still couldn’t quite function. Another express pulled up behind ours, and everyone got off to move to the new bus. Before the 2nd bus even pulled away, a firetruck and ambulance arrived. I have to say, it made me feel pretty good about dear Chicago. It really wasn’t more than 7 or 8 minutes before the EMTs arrived – and not 7 or 8 minutes from the time they were called, but 7 or 8 minutes from the time The Helpful Passenger first diagnosed the problem. Good on ya, Chicago.

So, fast-forward some 3 or4 hours, to about 1:45 in the afternoon. I had finished teaching and was heading back north on the x49. Guess who gets on? The woman who had the seizure! The red streak in the dark hair of a middle-aged woman is easy to remember. Plus, in case there was any doubt, she had cotton taped to the back of both hands. She seemed to be doing fine, which was nice to see.

So, she gets off the bus a few stops later, and a few stops after that, so do I. And then I start walking to job number 2. And this guy goes running past. With big floppy hair. Big floppy hair? Running? In this neighborhood? Big floppy hair? It’s… it’s… it’s… it’s BLAGO!!!

What a weird day.

P.S.: The obligitory “it’s-a-weird-day-scratch-and-win-ticket” did not win. Bummer.

–Tobias Amadon Bengelsdorf

Run (Book Review)

March 23, 2009

Run, Ann Patchett, 2007, HarperCollins.

Just like my last review, this is a book written by an author who wrote one of my top-10 favorite books of all time (in this case, Bel Canto). And, just like my last review, it was a disappointing read. The book centers around a cobbled together family, and some coincidences that bring them together. But I didn’t buy it. I didn’t buy the family and their dynamic, and I didn’t buy the coincidences that brought them together. In case that wasn’t enough, the book also suffers from some un-careful prose, such as “Then the crowd shifted imperceptibly, and opened up a narrow path for Doyle and Sullivan and Kenya to meet them.” If something is “imperceptible” it cannot be perceived. A path, however narrow, is obviously perceptible. Un-careful. I won’t stand for un-careful, anymore than I will for catharsis (see the last review).

I actually like the book in my next review, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz.

–Tobias Amadon Bengelsdorf

What Do You Do?

March 16, 2009

There is a word related to writing and publishing that has so many meanings it ends up not having much meaning at all, and the word is “editor” (and the many words appended to it). What does an editor do? How is an editor different from an associate editor or an assistant editor? Who’s in charge? The editor? The executive editor? The editor-in-chief?

The New York Times has an executive editor, listed above two managing editors; Tin House has an editor, listed above a managing editor, an executive editor, and a senior editor; TriQuaterly also starts their masthead with an editor, followed by an associate editor–and then, down below even the editorial assistants, who I always think of as the very bottom of the masthead-worthy crowd, comes an assistant editor; the LA Times has an editor, above an executive editor, and a managing editor; The Paris Review goes editor, managing-, senior-.

I have to say, I don’t like the term executive editor. It’s sounds to businessy. And I think starting the masthead with an editor only makes sense if there are no senior- or executive- editors. What does the word senior mean, exactly, if the senior editor is below the editor? Editor-in-chief seems to be falling by the wayside, which is too bad because it has a nice ring to it. Its similarity to commander-in-chief gives the task of publishing a sort of important, militia feeling.

What’s your favorite?

–Tobias Amadon Bengelsdorf, Assistant Editor.