DAILY: May 21, 2019




Jeff Daniels, who is starring on Broadway as Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird, appeared on Nicole Wallace’s show on MSNBC yesterday and spoke truth.  I guess it takes an actor with a conscience to speak to politicians who evince a lack of one in their lack of conviction and action daily re: impeachment of an unfit and criminal president.


Watch and Listen to Daniels here.

We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history.  This is why I am so disappointed in Speaker Pelosi so far.   We look to those to whom we’ve looked in the past, people we thought had it within them to do the right thing and show real courage.  Instead, such people refuse to step up in this moment when they are needed and cynically fall back on politics and putting their political party’s supposed interests over the country’s and, in so doing, they  belittle both and damage each.  Step up, Nancy.  Step up, those who follow her like lemmings.   Lead.  Dammit: lead, if she will not.  Find your inner “Atticus,” all of you.  Hell, find your inner “Scouts.”     Stop giving the mob its agency by refusing to find your own and the agency of the Congress in which you have the majority.   When will enough be enough?  If not now, when?

And yet Atticus himself in this production is a complicated character who himself has to evolve with his perspective re: doing what is right within the context of his own world, a world where we find ourselves these days.  The world hasn’t changed that much.  Indeed, in this regard it seems to have become atavistic.  Daniels notes how Atticus defended his own neighbors by saying, “I know these people, they’re good people,” but “[Atticus] is an apologist, he’s an enabler,” Daniels said. “And I think there are people in the Midwest, between the coasts, who don’t know anything about this, who don’t care about this, who don’t have any time for this, who have to make a decision now. You have to decide whether, like Atticus, you believe that there is still compassion, decency, civility, respect for others — ‘do unto others,’ remember that? — all that stuff you guys believe in, and you still voted not for Hillary or for Trump. Where are you now?”

And then he added: “If the big gamble is to go all the way to November 2020 … and lose, that’s the end of democracy.”


“Voltaire warned that ‘those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.’ In his new book, Peter Daou offers copious evidence that nothing has ever made that pernicious alchemy easier than the internet,” writes Kaiser in The Guardian.

“‘Technology,’ he writes, ‘has altered … the field of battle … The unrelenting toxicity of social media is a feature, not a bug, of digital warfare.’ He also offers an important corollary: ‘Nothing in American life is more of a threat to our democracy than the Republican party’s lurch to the far right.’

“Daou says he writes not as an historian but as ‘an eyewitness.’ He has been a digital strategist for two Democratic presidential candidates – John Kerry in 2004 and Hillary Clinton in 2008 – but he thinks his earlier history is what makes him the perfect analyst for this conflict: he came of age as a Christian in Lebanon at the height of its own civil war.

“Norman Ornstein was one the first Washington pundits to identify the big problem with the way the mainstream press deals with a sharply altered political universe, writing in 2014: “Insisting on equivalence as the mantra of mainstream journalism leaves the average voter at sea, unable to identify and vote against those perpetrating the problem. The public is left with a deeper disdain for all politics and all politicians.’

Daou strongly agrees. The ‘mainstream media and the political establishment,’ he writes, have failed to ‘serve as a counterbalance to the dishonesty and hypocrisy poisoning American politics.’ Or as progressive analyst Zerlina Maxwell put it, ‘there will be literal Nazis marching in the streets before the [mainstream media] realizes that calling for civility from both sides is stupid. Wait. Too late.'”

Read the rest of the review here.

Order Daou’s book Digital Civil War: Confronting the Far-Right Menace from booksamillion.com here.



Maupin, right, with his husband photographer Christopher Turner in London where they have recently moved.

Maupin talks to Trenton Straube at POZ magazine.

How are you and your husband, Chris, doing?

We’re great. More in love than we’ve ever been, after 15 years. His health is good, and, except for some neuropathy in my feet because of diabetes, I’m a happy camper. I’m very proud of my husband. He did a Facebook post the other day, calling someone to task for asking if he was clean [meaning free of sexually transmitted infections and HIV]. He got more responses than anything I’ve ever had on my Facebook page because he struck close to what people with HIV still endure. There’s still a lot of work to be done and still the same solution: Tell the truth and get on with life.

You started writing Tales before HIV struck. What was your first encounter with the epidemic, and at what point did you decide to put it in your stories?

My friend Daniel Katz died in St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York, one of the first people who contracted Pneumocystis pneumonia [PCP, a common cause of death before modern treatment]. He was my little brother in my logical family, and we were all traumatized. So I realized I had no choice but to let AIDS be part of the narrative. I was resolved to kill off a popular character in Tales to make other [characters] feel the pinch. And when that happened, there were plenty of gay guys that said, “How dare you spoil our light morning entertainment with your political agenda?” Jon Fielding [a character in Tales] was the first AIDS fatality in fiction anywhere. That was in ’83. A couple of novels came out the next year, but this was the first time that anybody talked about the epidemic. [Editor’s note: for a glimpse of Maupin and Katz at the 1978 launch of Tale of the City, at the Marina Laundromat, click here.]

When Tales first ended in 1989, Michael was living with HIV. You’ve said you didn’t want to continue the tradition of killing the gay character at the end. You didn’t expect Michael to make it?

I assumed that everyone who was HIV positive wasn’t going to make it. It was still a death sentence in 1989. And I didn’t want to live through his death. Fortunately, that bought me time so that I could come back to Michael in Michael Tolliver Lives [the 2007 novel] and talk about what that new life was about.

The Netflix series finds Michael doing great—

And looking hotter than ever! [Laughs]

Thank you for putting him in a serodiscordant relationship—when one person has HIV and the other doesn’t—so we can explore that. Plus, he’s got a sexy young boyfriend, Ben [played by Charlie Barnett, recently in Russian Doll]. Gee, I wonder where you got the inspiration for a hot younger partner.

They’re both dreamboats. They’re both just such good guys.

Michael’s so friendly. I was surprised when he says he feels a lot of rage.

Well, he buried it. People with HIV learn to be good little boys about it all and feel like it’s somehow beneath them to express anger that their lives were taken away. Even if they’re living, they were robbed of their carefree lives.





Maupin with his dear friend, Laura Linney, who not only stars in the new Tales of the City but also is one of its producers. She recently visited him here in London. She named her son Bennett Armistead in his honor.



Ford photographed by Robert Yager. Image from the Lyceum Agency.

The Lifetime Achievement Award from the Library of Congress is meant to honor a writer whose body of work is “distinguished not only for its mastery of the art but also for its originality of thought and imagination,” the announcement of the award read. Past recipients have included Herman Wouk, John Grisham, Toni Morrison, Philip Roth E.L. Doctorow, Don DeLillo, and last year’s winner  E. Annie Proulx.

Speaking from Los Angeles where he was on a lecture tour, Ford told the Portland Press Herald in Maine that he was happy to win the award because he feels it’s a chance for him to promote the importance of libraries. He said that libraries have long been sources of wonder and comfort for him, from the Jackson, Mississippi, library he frequented as a child to the ones he visits nowadays in Maine, including the Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library and the Skidompha Public Library in Damariscotta.

“I know it’s a grand library with a remarkable history, but it’s still a library, ” Ford said of the Library of Congress. “If you’re lucky enough to win an award, you have the opportunity to do something good with that notoriety. So I’d like to do something useful (with the award) and remind people about libraries. I am a library enthusiast.”

In announcing the award Thursday morning, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden referred to Ford as “the Babe Ruth of novelists.”

“He is quintessentially American, profoundly human, meticulous in his craft, daring on the field, and he hits it consistently out of the park,” Hayden said in a statement. She also called Ford “one of the most eloquent writers of his generation.”

Ford will receive the award on Aug. 31 at the Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

Ford said Thursday that he’s currently working on a book of short stories to come out next year called “Sorry for Your Trouble,” about people facing various life challenges. He’s also working on another novel featuring Frank Bascombe, the hero of “Independence Day” and “The Sportswriter.”

Besides using the award to help promote libraries, Ford said it will motivate him to be a better writer.

“To know that somebody likes what I’ve written makes me want to do better at what I do,” Ford said.

Richard Ford was the one person to whom I showed my first memoir Mississippi Sissy who refused to give it a blurb.  He didn’t want his imprimatur on it.  He also advised me not to title it Mississippi Sissy because it would “ghettoize” it and warned me that guys like him would not pick it up at an airport bookstore with that title.  “Then I guess, guys like you are not its audience,” I told him even though I was greatly disappointed in his response.  I still admire the guy and, though Maine, where he now lives most of the year, now claims him as a Maine writer, he will always be a Mississippi one to me since that is where he grew up.  All of us who grew up in such a place will always be haunted by it and carry it around within us.

Ford was once my neighbor down in New Orleans when we both had places there.  I did a story about New Orleans, in fact, for Travel+Leisure magazine in which I interviewed just such denizens to get a taste of the place.  Here is a link to that story.

Ford was kind enough to talk to me for his part in it.  Below is his segment.

Richard Ford Welcomes a Gentleman Caller

It has been raining all Sunday afternoon in the French Quarter and finally the clouds begin to part, allowing the remaining light to lap at this hue-addled part of town. It is a gentle light, tender, really—too tender, in fact, to test the hangover-subsiding determination of those emerging from their walled gardens to set off on their weekly strolls toward the top of Bourbon. They’re all headed for yet another early Sunday supper at Galatoire’s, which is one of this city’s more preciously held traditions, along with “making” one’s uptown groceries at Langenstein’s, and suffering through another New Orleans Saints season.

Just a few blocks down from Galatoire’s, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Ford graciously receives a visitor in the parlor of his 1840’s town house. Tourists—a covey of warbling Germans—flutter by outside as Ford settles into a blood-red taffeta sofa situated perfectly between the parlor’s lavishly sashed front windows. Above him is a silk screen of an old Paris Review cover. Books, of course, are all about, including an opened edition of Middlemarch, his current reading, left atop a sturdy little writing desk just big enough for a man’s laboring elbows. On the walls are several original WPA-sponsored photographs by Eudora Welty, who has named Ford the executor of her estate.

“I hear the tourists walking down Bourbon all the time,” he says. “I’ll be sitting here reading, and one of them will say, ‘Oh, I wish I knew what it looked like in there.’ If I ever hear that, I go right out and bring ’em inside and say, ‘You want to see what it looks like?Come on in and look!’ I assume they all think there’s a room in here full of pictures of popes, and the ashes of a Pekingese dog on the mantel. When, in fact, it’s just me, reading and watching a football game on TV. Not anything exotic. It’s certainly not George Dureau’s place,” he says, citing the city’s most infamous artist and photographer.

“The important thing to me about New Orleans is not all the gingerbread on the houses and how everybody has that accent that makes them sound as if they live in Brooklyn,” Ford continues in his own slightly nasal, no-nonsense voice. “What’s important to me is how New Orleans is like any other big city, except nicer. It’s a more graceful city, a more slowly paced one.” He pauses. “When I used to hang out down here in the seventies, they were into the life that I think people expect New Orleanians to be into: slightly decadent perhaps, slightly grubby. It felt like ‘live and let live,’ as Kristina would describe it,” he says, mentioning his wife of 32 years, who was until recently the executive director of the city’s planning commission. “It all felt . . . boozy. But I think the big drinking in a societal way has finally gone out of vogue. Eating is much more of a vice in this town,” he insists, noting that his current project is the introduction to a history of Galatoire’s.

“Walker Percy warned writers to be careful about living in the Quarter,” Ford is reminded. “He said that ‘the occupational hazard of the writer in New Orleans is a variety of the French flu, which also may be called Vieux Carré syndrome. One is apt to turn fey, potter about a patio. . . .’ “

“When I came here in the seventies, I’d stay at the Olivier House on Toulouse—a place I still love—and I’d call up Walker. I was looking for a place to buy or rent. And Walker would always say: ‘Richard, don’t buy in the French Quarter. You’ll be preoccupied with taking a stroll every morning, and going off to get coffee, and chattin’ with your friends at the Napoleon House.’ It was specifically because of Walker Percy that I have not let that happen,” he says, twisting about atop his red silk taffeta.



  • Kevin Sessums is the author of two New York Times bestselling memoirs, Mississippi Sissy and I Left It on the Mountain.

  • Show Comments

  • Bryn Nelson-Richard

    This is my first Daily page. I am really happy to have finally been able to subscribe to sessumsmagazine.com.
    And thanks for the reminder to check it out.
    It was wonderful to hear and feel your passions.

  • Claudia Reilly

    I loved reading all of this. It was fascinating to read the Ford piece and to learn how he wanted you to change the title. Your generosity of spirit shines as I would have been petty about the NO BLURB. Honestly Richard Ford!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

comment *

  • name *

  • email *

  • website *