Would you want to know your last…everything?

A friend and I are talking about the death penalty and she says she would be “for” it if it was certain that it was administered fairly – that is, according to race and socio-economic status, but also, if it could be certain, every time, that the person did what they said he did (and…

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Shakespeare’s Son

I am reading Maggie O’Farrell’s novel Hamnet, about the son of William Shakespeare and Anne (or Agnes) Hathaway.  It is a heartbreaking story about parenthood — its delights and its dangers. Shakespeare is never named but it is made clear that this is the bard of Stratford upon Avon, who later writes a play called…

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Lost in Hospitality Land

When I have nightmares, they’re not really terrifying nightmares, they are simply passing strange. And always, always, they take place in some kind of hotel. It’s never clear why I’m at the hotel, for what event, but the same thing happens: I need to go down to the lobby for something I need and I…

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Did That Ever Really Happen?

There are sometimes events in your life (well, in my life …) that I remember clearly but wonder if I ever really experienced. In retrospect, they seem like hallucinations. One of them is this: When I wrote my first novel, I lived in a modest house on the south side of Madison, Wisconsin. I was…

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There She Is ….

I’m having a debate with my daughter over Miss Universe. She says that, in almost-2022, beauty pageants are still a big deal to most people. I am equally sure that beauty pageants are not a big deal to hardly anybody. When I was growing up, Miss America was a big, wholesome deal. And Miss Universe…

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Won’t Get Fooled Again

I have a cousin who still loves Donald Trump. When I talk about Donald Trump with this cousin of mine, I feel like my head is on fire. She thinks that Donald Trump will be president again soon, no election necessary, because, as she explains, “Most people think that the election was illegal.” She believes…

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But You’ll Love My Dog

People are surprised to hear that, for a person who has nine much-doted-upon children, I really don’t have much tolerance for kids. I never ask to hold the new baby. And most children are pretty demanding and boring, even if their dear and beleaguered parents have done their best. People are surprised to hear that,…

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The Bright Blessing of Silly Stuff

This is how a Christmas tree looks when you have wrapped all the presents for nine kids, their two spouses and one grandchild … I am completely certain that there is not one single item under this tree that any of these people actually needed to go on living. I know that I should be…

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Let Some Things Stay the Same

George and Amal Clooney seem to be having a pretty good life. I’m not in their league. The politicians and criminals that show up in my news feed seem to be having uniformly rotten lives. I’m not in their league either.  I’m not on vacation at the Amalfi Coast or celebrating the million-dollar payoff on…

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Ghost Stories Worthy of The Name

The light in my room is dim … winter light … a day hardly ever gets started this time of year before it rounds the turn and chugs toward the resumption of darkness. I love darkness. In the night, I need my room to be absolutely dark. I draw the darkness over me like a…

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