How Mud Can Save Us

    The dog looks like a baby rhinoceros, every black curl caked with mud, his eyes bright slivers beneath a brown spiked fringe. How did seven pristine inches of snow turn into this diarrhetic substance? After enthusiastic greetings from Figgy and Lucy and Buddy and Dukie at the dog park, I am almost as […]

Spitting on Polish

    Like the canals in Venice and the air over Beijing, my fingernails have cleared during the pandemic. No longer stained by red polish or suffocated into fungus or splitting from the astringent polish remover, they are simply there, white crescent moons bright above smooth pink nail beds, the ends gently curved. Why did […]

Dreiser in St. Louis

One of the literary figures whose association with St. Louis has been mostly forgotten is Theodore Dreiser, author of the novels Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy. Dreiser lived and worked in St. Louis for 16 formative months, from November 1892 to March 1894. He was only 21 when he arrived, and other than five […]

The Contagion Narrative—and What It Leaves Out

    We have been living in a disaster movie, so caught up in the suspense, we failed to see how scripted it was. Turns out there is an “outbreak narrative” in films and popular novels, and it has influenced our media, our policy, our response. There are stock characters: Patient Zero, who seems healthy […]

The Great Volunteer Corps Preserving Our Family Histories

    The website Find A Grave was started in 1995 by a man named Jim Tipton, as an amateur tribute site for celebrity graves. It became a commercial site in 1998 and began posting photos, submitted by other people, of non-celebrity graves. Genealogists and families who were unable to visit relatives’ gravesites loved it. […]

Loose Canon: Can Classics Survive the Neo-Nazis?

      The study of classical antiquity always seemed so serene, secluded from the noise of modern life. I pictured scholars bent over tomes of Aristotle, archeologists brushing dirt from marble, professors reciting epic poetry. But raiders from the alt-right have invaded the sanctuary, laying claim to the ancient memes. Classics is hot—and not […]

Time for an Imaginary Friend?

    We are all going a wee bit crazy, and the latest remedy for social isolation is something called tulpamancy. The art of the invisible friend. Tulpamancy is defined as “the act of conjuring sentient beings,” dreaming up a person who will live in your head. You decide how they look, how they act, […]

The Disability Paradox

    When I see someone whose body is twisted into an unfamiliar shape or cannot move as mine does, I often flinch, then try to hide the involuntary recoil. Afterward, I lie to myself, insisting that this is empathy. It is not. It is stark fear. Why? Because I am not sure I would […]

Big Business Versus the Bees

    In 1985, Bayer patented a synthetic insecticide that soon showed up in its garden products. Imidacloprid belonged to a new class of chemicals, neonicotinoids, neonics for short. They block neural receptors, killing an insect or, with milder exposure, causing tremors, convulsion, an inability to fly, sterility, or a damaged immune system. The intended […]

“Some Women Marry Houses”

    I am glad my mother cannot see my house right now. First there was COVID, so why would I bother with beeswax and Swifters when the only person showing up was the mail carrier? I like Travis and value his opinion, but he is far too busy to peer in the window and […]