How to Get Our Attention Back

      After I thank D. Graham Burnett for his lyrical introduction to the book Affinities, we exchange a few emails about the importance of attention—how it is being stolen from us and how, if we want to stay sane, we need to seize back the reins. “You might want to review a little […]


      It took four dogs for me to admit that my blithe offers of leashless abandon often ended in disaster. I wanted each dog to be able to run free, ears flying in the wind—and then run straight back to me. After leading me on long gleeful chases at the park, taking victory […]

The Bias in My Bedtime Reading

      It is thrilling to see literary fiction, crime, every category of fiction expand. We have learned enough about how brilliant White opium addicts and spunky old White ladies solve crimes. Stories set deep inside another culture fascinate me, and I love how sneaky they are, educating me without a hint of teaching […]

Wounds Heal Faster When—Covered?

      First came the swell of pride: I had pedaled my bike into a whir and taken a dramatic fall Then came tender attention and a chance to be heroic all over again by barely wincing at the Bactine’s sting. But best of all was the moment the Band-Aid, my temporary badge of […]

Lefty Loosy, Righty Tighty

    The US of A is a freewheeling, rollicking sort of land, one where rule-breakers and scofflaws are mythologized and individual freedom weighs far heavier than the commonweal. In Rule Makers Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire the World, cultural psychologist Michele Gelfand helps explain why we are so loose—and why there […]

Dancing Alone

      People calling out, singing, dancing themselves into a froth of sweat and joy—but not to the same beat. The room silent—they are all wearing headphones. You dance next to someone who is listening to an entirely different genre, spun by a different DJ. This is silent disco. Forgive me if it feels […]

Wildlife Wrangler, Stunt Man, Falconer, Sage

        Queenie the lemur has a ringed tail and black rings around her eyes, too, making her look startled. The teenage lemurs are in another enclosure because they are wild, like all teenagers, and easily riled up. Inside Kangaroo Crossing, Tyson hops over, eager for his silvery-tan ears to be stroked. Only […]

Elvis Got Slicker, and Graceland Has, Too

        Elvis got slicker over time. Pressed into long-term contracts in Las Vegas, he ordered himself bejeweled $2,800 jumpsuits and hid those heart-stopping blue eyes behind aviators because the world had gotten too bright. For eight years, he did month-long stints of two shows a night for audiences that applauded spectacle, not […]

Black Elvis, Paying Tribute to the Hillbilly Cat

      People called Elvis “a white Negro” and a “hillbilly cat,” trying to get at the way he hung out with Black musicians, showed up at all-Black events, fused Black and White musical traditions. And now I am sitting on a bar stool at Blues City Café on Beale Street, listening to a […]

Elvis’s Wake

      Elvis Presley died today, all over again. Streets were blocked off around Graceland, and from five yesterday until three or so this morning, thousands of people walked slowly to his grave, holding candles, often weeping, their vigil more loyal than the apostles’ at Gethsemane. Fans placed homemade memorials outside the gates or […]