Steinbeck Could Not Save to the Cloud

    Carpenters used to seem so lucky. They sweated and got splinters, but they could see the result of their effort. Those of us who pushed paper around knew a stray cigarette ember could char a month’s work into ash. Doctoral students kept their dissertations in the freezer, surprising anybody who helped themselves to […]

There It Is (Again), That Funny Feeling

  I have written before about preparing book manuscripts for publication. But not only does each time feel different; assembling my own collections feels different from finishing single-arc books, and editing others’ books feels different yet again. A few weeks have passed since I finished writing, editing, and organizing the manuscript for my new essay […]

Whacked Out Sports: A Cultural Clue?

    “What in holy hell are you watching?” My husband should have the grace to look guilty; instead, he just grins. On the tv screen, young women in bikinis jiggle as they spike a volleyball, giggle as they play an uncomfortably suggestive game of leapfrog. “It’s Whacked Out Sports,” he replies. I blink. Now […]

Found Objects: Proof That Hell Awaits

    A moving box (SMALL / PEQUEÑA), taped shut and cut open several times, is labeled with a Sharpie: LIBRARY / KNICKKNACKS / & Watches / & Dive Challenge Coins. Inside are journals, books, and a little wicker basket holding money from several countries, the first pen I carried vocationally, and an acrylic keychain […]

The Vanishing, Civilizing Art of Marginalia

    Sometimes the notes are ferocious, Skirmishes against the author Raging along the borders of every page In tiny black script. . . .     I smile at Billy Collins’s “Marginalia,” because I always used to scribble outrage or applause in the margins of my books. I used to dogear the pages, too—I […]

Found Objects: Postcard to the War Department

  A yellowed postcard was found recently on page four of an old edition of Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris, the top of which begins, as a continuation of the previous page, “Fools. On that day there was to be an exhibition of fireworks in the Place de Grève, a May-tree planted at the […]

What Bloodshed in Haiti Means for Us

    When I learned that Jovenel Moïse, president of Haiti, had been assassinated—after riots and demands that he resign—something inside me crumpled. Again? I was in Haiti during its 2010 presidential elections, along with the professional photographer who shot the image above, Patti Gabriel. We were the outsiders on a volunteer medical trip, neither […]

Invitation to the Dance

    Standing, I squint at the computer monitor while I try to curve my hip out as I tap my right foot. The dancers on the screen are holding plates of food, of course, as they execute perfect moves. This is “Jerusalema,” and I am a year late to the party. But I am […]