Author Archive

Why I Reread The Writer’s Chapbook

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I love The Writer’s Chapbook. Compiled by the late, great George Plimpton from the Paris Review’s Writers at Work series, this volume is a collection of wisdom from 20th Century writers about anything and everything literary, from first efforts to children’s books, from sex to writers’ colonies (which often

Occupational Hazard

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I started writing “Occupational Hazard” eight  years ago, out at the Marin Headlands Center for the Arts. I had a bedroom/studio in an old house, former officer’s quarters, and I found myself sleepy all the time. It was so quiet, there—a break from my Tenderloin apartment in the city—and

Why I Reread “Leg” by Steven Polansky

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I return to “Leg,” a short story by Steven Polansky, in large part because I enjoy the way he covers my material—that is to say, the lives of believers in Protestant evangelical communities. This is not to say it isn’t his material, too. We can all write about whatever

Why I Reread the Sun Also Rises

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I first read The Sun Also Rises in college, in a survey course of the American Novel. I don’t know if such survey courses even exist anymore, or if Hemingway is still taught to our undergraduates. But I took this class during springtime in Kentucky, which is long and

Why I Reread “First Love and other Sorrows” by Harold Brodkey

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This is a story I love because my grandmother might have loved it—though perhaps for some of the wrong reasons. Brodkey’s character (like Brodkey) is a high school boy born into a life of education and privilege but taken down a peg by the death of his father. He

Why I Reread Lithium for Medea

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I came to Kate Braverman through her story “Tall Tales from the Mekong Delta,” which appears in the collection Squandering the Blue and was chosen for the Best American Short Stories in 1991. In 1991 I was still in college, which is to say a tiny, evangelical college in

To the Lighthouse

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Many writers weigh in on the effect of today’s numerous MFA programs on the quality of contemporary fiction writing. Like others, I am—helpfully—100% ambivalent. The MFA served me well in many ways. After I graduated from college I went right into a full-time job editing sewage treatment reports for

One Day at a Time: Why I Reread “Helping”

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Robert Stone’s story, “Helping,” is told (mostly) from the point of view of Elliot. He’s a Vietnam vet and a recovering alcoholic social worker married to Grace, a lawyer who works for child protective services. Clearly these two share an occupational dedication to helping others. They also invest, gamely,

Jean Rhys and Wide Sargasso Sea

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Widely read in English department post-colonial courses, Wide Sargasso Sea imagines the life of “the madwoman in the attic” of Jane Eyre and suggests the background of her madness. The book is divided into three parts, narrated by Antoinette Cosway (who becomes Bertha Mason) and Rochester. But the book

“In a Pig’s Eye:” Why I Reread “Rock Springs”

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By the time I first read “Rock Springs” by Richard Ford, I had already crossed the country seven times by car, four of them through the eponymous town. One of these times my friend and I were on a road trip just for the sake of it. Or for