Bridging the Gap

    There is fascination in the sudden appearance of a dozen cranes, the size used to build skyscrapers, spaced alongside a highway bridge over a major river. It means things are in the works, forces are at play. Something slouches to be born. How wide and varied the world is! How much there is […]

America’s Anxiety About Anxiety: a Q&A With Dr. Rebecca Lester

        Performance anxiety, writer’s block, imposter syndrome, chronic stress. Social anxiety, attachment anxiety, existential anxiety, FOMO. Climate anxiety, tech anxiety, conspiracy theories, xenophobia. Overachievement, perfectionism, avoidance, hoarding. Hypochondria, insomnia, fear of aging, denial of death. We are a bundle. Spidery, creeping, impossible to ignore, anxiety spins uncertainties that cling no matter how […]

The Doting Baby Book Kept by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Mom

  You cannot read this little book without smiling. An only child, RLS has been described as “both strange looking and eccentric,” and he suffered frequent illnesses. But he had a mother who watched over him tenderly and noted each illness in his baby book, along with a list of his pet names and the […]

Home Is Where One Starts From

        “We could go through East Coker,” Lynette Ballard told the British tour-bus guide, enthusing about how valuable and important this detour would be for her fellow passengers. Then she held her breath, because she had no idea what East Coker was like. All she knew was that one of T.S. Eliot’s […]

Jammed Keys and Snarled Ribbons

      “Back straight, feet on floor, fingers on home keys, three-two-one-and-type!” Sister Lorraine timed our drills with military ferocity. Except for the morning my friend Jenny cracked open the classroom door and sent a little wind-up Woodstock clattering across the floor, headed straight for the nun shoes. All that tension Sister created on […]

Knowhere Citizen #65

        Sixteen months ago I worked as an extra on the third installment of Guardians of the Galaxy movie. It has just been released, and we went to see it opening weekend. Sitting down in the theater with a tub of popcorn and a Diet Coke, I felt like my elder son […]

Jerry Springer’s Opera Buffa

    Ours is a house divided. On the bright side, at least we are not running at each other screaming vitriol and kicking and clawing until we are (reluctantly) dragged apart so someone can lift a T-shirt for Jerry beads. On my husband’s side of the house, Jerry Springer deliberately performed a public service […]

Let Your Soul Catch Up to Your Body

  If we were climbing Mount Everest’s Khumbu Icefall, sucking thin air into lungs near collapse, blind to anything but the chance to stand at the top of the world, our sherpa would give us the classic warning: pause every third day, and “let your soul catch up to your body.” We are not, however, […]

On the Draining of Swamps

“Drain the swamp” just sounded like something Donald Trump would yell, so in all those years of wincing, I never questioned its origins. But now that the nation again faces the possibility of Trump stuffing himself into presidential blue instead of an orange jumpsuit, my mind returns to that hated phrase. Did it come to […]

Joseph Heller at 100

    Yesterday marked the centenary of the birth of Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22, Something Happened, Closing Time, and other novels, story collections, plays, and autobiographical nonfiction. Heller was prominent among the riotous talent, often seen as lacking in decorum or respect, that emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Catch-22 (begun in […]