Author Archive

On Being Under the Gun

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There is something about pressure that fascinates me. I never could stand to stick a pin into a balloon, but I would rub one against my head to make my hair stand on end and, in the slow, painstaking process, break the sack of air against my skull.

On Colm Tóibín’s The Master and the Designed Self

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I recently fell in love with Colm Tóibín’s The Master, a novel about the life of “master” writer Henry James. Notable writers such as Michael Cunningham describe the novel, shortlisted in 2004 for the Man Booker, as “almost shockingly close to the mystery of art itself.”

For the (Physical) Love of Books

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A few weeks ago, I found myself in a public state of lust. My object of desire? There before me, in a display fit for a museum, was a cloth-bound sketchbook of Ireland with “78 pages of watercolors by ‘Miss Collis,’ circa 1890.” I loved it. I wanted it.

On Kindness and Barbarians

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Like many people, I’ve been thinking about the past few years a lot lately. Instead of looking at political events, I’ve been looking at stories and movies. Mostly I’ve been thinking about Wes Anderson and Stefan Zweig.

On Being An Impostor: This Girl’s Life

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I should have graduated high school in the year 2000. I was young for my year and, as my mother put it, “immature.” Instead of plodding along through public school, I spent tenth grade begging my parents to allow me to apply to The Hill School...

On Fictional Sex in the ’90s

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Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away--that is, in 1990s mid-Atlantic America, in which I was miserable in a very teenage way, being a teenager--I began to read Tom Robbins.

On Being A Witty Pig

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In November of this awful year I emailed my two brothers an article, which I thought really broke things down. This really breaks things down, replied one brother, sending me an article on how to deal with shunt trip fuses and boiler rooms...

How to Be an Explorer: Field Notes from NYC

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The Explorer’s Club was founded in New York City in 1904 by Arctic explorers in a grand building with a placard and serious gates. If you stalk their website as I do, you will see several events a year that are open to non-Explorers.

The Strange Story of the World’s First Badass Accountant

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This fall, for the first time in my life, I’ve been teaching undergraduates. For the first time in their lives, they’ve had someone ask them whether there are surprise dance parties on campus. Surprise dance parties are, in my experience, one of the pinnacles of an undergraduate liberal arts

On Scent and Time Travel

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Somewhere in West Virginia sits a ghost town that once was a heap of millionaires. Thirteen unlucky mansions haunt Bramwell: the place where, about a century ago, the women bought boatloads of Chanel No. 5.