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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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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