Giving Up on the Past

It is a mark of high intelligence when young people get frustrated with their elders for forgetting the past. They suspect somebody is hiding something, or has been careless with their legacy, or was being lazy. How hard is it to remember what relatives were like; what years certain events played out; the proper technique […]

The Lifecycle Adorns Us

Both women bought “DNA jewelry” in the shape of teardrops–one to honor a life departed, the other to commemorate the lives she nourished. My mother Carla chose a silver necklace for herself and her younger sister to house the ashes of their beloved mother, my late grandmother. Jenna, my best friend from college, sent off […]

Only Mostly Dead

“[I]t is your duty to learn how to resuscitate a lizard,” a writer in Arizona told pool owners in the Southwest, on her blog, in 2014. She provided instructions for CPR. Three years later a woman in Nevada brought a lizard back from a near-drowning in her pool. No word if the two are related, […]

Seeing the Invisible

Leave it to mechanical engineering and physics professors to produce “Graphene: The Musical” to the tune of J.J. Cale’s 1976 bluesy rock ballad, “Cocaine.” The song, of course, Cale wrote for guitarist Eric Clapton on his legendary album (and nickname), Slowhand, in 1977:   If you want to beat Moore, you need carbon to the […]

The Welter of the First College Visit

College enrollments in the United States were down again last year, from the previous fall. That would not have been evident by attendance at Tulane University’s recent Louisiana Day. McAlister Auditorium was nearly full of state residents with enough interest in the kids applying to the school, this fall or next, to have taken the […]

Pressing Memories

Ever stop to memorize something you are experiencing, and it seems as if you can actually feel it grooving into the hippocampus, like cutting a record? Maybe you press harder on the details—especially if you do not have a camera, voice recorder, or even a pen—and go over them repeatedly in your mind until satisfied […]

The Lender of Last Resort

To know my granddad John Dee Hammond, you would first need to know about the little wooden lockbox, painted two shades of grey, dove and ash, affixed to the exterior of his modest two-bedroom, one-bathroom house in Clinton, Missouri. The modest lockbox was secured, and I use that verb loosely, with a lock I might […]

American Writers on Displays

The Newberry Library in Chicago hosted a 25-hour Moby-Dick Readathon recently. After opening remarks by National Book Award-winner Nathaniel Philbrick, the reading proper got underway, and I jumped ship for a time to have a look at another Chicago celebration of writers, the American Writers Museum. Oddly, the AWM is the first national museum to […]

Melville in Chicago

Chicago has long been a town associated with writers. Look on Wikipedia under “Writers from Chicago,” and there are more than a thousand entries. Some are a bit surprising, like John Cusack. I think most of us think first of Wright, Brooks, Terkel, Algren, Mamet, Sandburg, Dos Passos, Dreiser, Bellow, or Hemingway, and of publications […]