John Griswold

John Griswold is a staff writer at The Common Reader. His most recent book is a collection of essays, Pirates You Don’t Know, and Other Adventures in the Examined Life (2014, University of Georgia Press). His forthcoming book about veterans at Standing Rock will be published in 2019. He is the founding Series Editor of Crux, a literary nonfiction book series at University of Georgia Press.

Posts by John Griswold

The Broken Hopes in ‘American Factory’

The 2019 documentary American Factory is about a Chinese glass company that opened a factory in the United States. The film is good enough to be, well, lacerating at times. When a GM plant closed in 2008 in Dayton, 10,000 people lost their jobs. The repurposing of the plant by Fuyao Glass offered hope for […]

Who Could Ask for More

The “When I’m 64 Beatles Festival” was held this weekend in Prairietown, Illinois, “a populated place located within the Township of Omphghent,” not far from St. Louis. It was a perfect day for it, 75 and sunny. Butch Moore and Alan White, who are often performing down at the Stagger Inn in Edwardsville, were playing […]

Foods of Japan

If you look back through my blog, you will see I was in Japan this summer. For some reason, before I went I guess I thought many restaurants outside of the tourist quarters would serve portions an American might find small, and there would always be rice, and while the food would be tasty, it […]

Bigfoot Agonistes

Humans have long seen nature as a monster. We have tried our banded-together best to destroy it but cannot stop thinking about creatures that never stood a chance against us. The idea of a seven-foot hominid wandering around Texarkana, or the Pacific Northwest, or the Himalayas, is an aftertaste of our fear and hope that such things are still possible.

Travel’s Mixed Bag

I am back from Japan, where I had many beautiful experiences, a couple of weird ones, and some I cannot write until later. “Was it transcendent?” my nephew asked at the barbecue at the lake. He is generous and kind, so he was hoping I would say yes, most of all for my sake. It […]

All That We See or Seem

When Bashō, following Zen, implies again and again that life is a dream, something in me rebels. His entire practice was to capture concrete, sensory details of the physical world, so “dreamlike” seems like a contradiction. Yet even his final hokku, dictated as he was dying, and partial because his assistant did not hear the […]

‘Yamato’ Means ‘Great Harmony’

Fifteen miles down the rail line from Hiroshima, City of Peace, is the Kure Maritime Museum, more commonly called The Yamato Museum, a paean to the greatness of Japan’s navy in WWII. The Yamato, largest battleship ever built, was completed at Kure Dockyard the week after Pearl Harbor and was sunk by the US in […]


As the site of the world’s first atomic-bombing, and a consequence of suffering its horrors, Hiroshima calls itself “City of Peace” and promotes nonviolence and nuclear disarmament. But it is also a normal, mid-century-ugly city, with 1.2 million inhabitants, a diverse modern economy, a symphony, museums, parks, a pro baseball team, and irritable cabbies who […]


It was hot in Kyoto, with the Gion Festival underway, and it would stay hot. Globally it was the hottest month in recorded history. In a week, 57 people died in Japan and another 18,347 were taken to hospital for heat injuries. There was a high-pressure front, the news said. The Gion Festival originated in […]

How Many Roads Must a Man Walk Down?

I was caught off-guard, in Matsumoto and then Yamanaka Onsen—the middle of Honshu—to find Bashō again. That was only because I had personalized his journey through northern Japan by walking a small part of it myself. But I knew he returned home by walking down the western coast and across the width of Japan again. […]