In Person

September 20, 2013

Zen and the Art of Pie Making 0

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A great pie is a product of both skill and wisdom; as, I believe, is a great life.

September 17, 2013

Places of Remembrance 1

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German has two words that we might translate as memorial in English. A Mahnmal is something meant both to remind and to warn, it pleads for remembrance not for the purpose of glory but for the purpose of heedful acknowledgment, even shame. A Mahnmal takes the idea of “never again” and gives it shape.

September 9, 2013

Racetrack Diary: Down the Home Stretch 3

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On Labor Day, my first customer looks as weary as I feel, and I ask him how he’s doing. “Oh, you know, just another day in paradise,” he says with a sigh. “It’s the last day in paradise,” I remind him.

September 5, 2013

The Love Carousel: Literary Speed Dating at Housing Works in SoHo 0

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Each participant found at the entrance a neon green envelope, including a library card in manila sleeve for taking notes on each “date,” and a name tag featuring the handle of a character from a favorite book. These would be our pseudonyms for the night. Each date would last an almost militantly enforced four minutes. A single case of lingering could cause the entire caterpillar crawl to go legs up. There was to be no lingering. Lingering is for books.

August 30, 2013

Chasing the Light: On Not Quitting the Writing Life 5

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What is it that can still seize me, after years of failure, and make me seek to write, to make art? I have no idea. All I know is that I do not have it in me to give up.

August 7, 2013

Racetrack Diary: Opening Day 1

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For all the nostalgia and the celebration of tradition, at the track you have to take it one race at a time.

July 17, 2013

Does Speaking English Rot Your Teeth?: On Wanting to Be Mavis Gallant 1

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It didn’t seem like a fantastical proposition, not at the start, especially since an heiress I was helping with a book project was eager to dispatch me to Paris. There, I’d heard, lived a genius phonetician. This man claimed that achieving native-like speech was a matter of mere mechanics.

July 12, 2013

My Little Library in Anatolia 2

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Although the books were old and deep in hibernation, the people who came to read them were very much alive. So in my small library in a distant Anatolian town I learned an awful lot about what young Turkish men enjoyed reading under the gun. I watched them as they read for relief. I watched them as they read for pleasure. I watched them as they read for keeping sane.

June 4, 2013

The Bee Years: The Tales of Two Spelling Bee Hopefuls 1

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The 1998 Minnesota State Spelling Bee. Only five competitors remain on stage, including me. I approach the microphone and listen for my assigned word: “nascence.” I fumble it. It’s a clear-cut defeat, but it’s also an escape, a leap into freedom, a birth. I am born, so that I can be reborn.

May 31, 2013

Losing My Book Fair Virginity at the BEA Swag-A-Thon 3

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The vast autograph area at BEA brought to mind the cattle pens in a Midwestern feed lot. Indeed, many of the people waiting in line looked like beasts of burden, draped with bulging bags of swag and hankering for more.