Battle with Words

In her novel Beautiful World, Where Are You, the stunningly talented Sally Rooney wrote, “On the back walls of the house and through the branches of the trees, through the colored leaves of the trees and through the damp green grasses, the light of dawn was sifting. Summer morning. Cold clear water cupped in the…

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No Passions

No one in my family is musical. Even the one person who used to be an actor, while he could sing, wasn’t really “musical,” in the sense that he could go to a party and sit down at a piano and pick out tunes that everyone knew. I think of this lack not only as…

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Wisdom Given to Me on My Wedding Day

If you don’t pick up his socks, some other woman will No matter what he says, never disagree with him  Always ask him before you paint the wall/buy the suitcase/make the meal If you want to be happy, never bring up your job or how much you like it Never let him see you without…

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Slinky

When a cat walks into a room I am in, the cat sees me clearly, right away. The cat narrows its cold, expressive eyes and, says to me, with its mind, “The others might not, but I see you for what you are.” Cats think of you this way: Are you warm when I am…

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In Praise of Toast

What can you say about a person whose favorite food is toast? I actually never met a potato I didn’t like either … but if I could only have one thing from now until the end of time, it would be peanut butter toast. On rye, please. Toast may not be exciting but it is…

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No One Ever Compared Me to a Summer’s Day

I like to be snowed in. It doesn’t happen much anymore because I don’t live in the frozen Midwest anymore, where we once woke up on a frigid morning to find that the front porch had fallen off the house. Even though they’re teenagers now, my younger kids still yearn to wake to that pure,…

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‘The Birds’…and Other Creepiness

If you haven’t read Daphne du Maurier’s short story, The Birds, you haven’t begun to see just how creepy an ordinary thing can be. This technique is sometimes called “The Freudian uncanny” – a way of investing ordinary things with creeping horror. Many writers have done it (including Ray Bradbury with tennis shoes, a children’s…

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Schoolhouse Hell

My children have always liked school. They participate pretty avidly and just as much in the academic part as the social part. They think it is comical that I hated school and that I hate school now, on their behalf. I might have hated graduate school less than I hated kindergarten, but I did hate…

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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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