Write through the Back Door

Any path to a writing life is a fine one. Some people come to it along the mentored path of education, which leads the student from class to class, critique to critique, right to the front door of a party raging, the guests within all satin and heels, all turn of a shirt collar. It’s […]

The Measure of a Man

I always read the obituaries—especially those that start on the front page. It’s the one place that I can absorb, in a single smooth gulp, the entire arc of a person’s life as seen from the perspective of a dispassionate observer. There, in columnar inches, I trace where he began, and where it took him. […]

Questioning Assumptions

Popular lore holds that cats hate water, but it isn’t necessarily true. I’ve had three, and they have all imbibed from the tap, supervised the bath, and showed up when the garden hose was running. One routinely came home soaked from her forays, whether from roaming wetland, marsh or lakeshore, I’m not sure. She lived […]

Be Doing

It isn’t true, as some maintain, that the Chinese language has no tenses. I could, if I wanted, and especially if I studied harder, convey my sentiments of past events or future expectations. But the tense I particularly admire, and an easy one to use, relies on uses the word zai, said like you mean […]

Story Clothed

The novelist, film director, and screenwriter John Sayles once told me that he went about town trying out his story ideas on people. This was Newark in the late 1980s, and the ideas were embryonic—inklings from the daily news that sparked his interest and that he thought had narrative possibilities.  This was the best time to […]

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