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My Works


The Soros sisters’ eyes are the blue of lunar seas, their complexions cloud white, and their identical pageboys well-bottom black. The term “beautiful” has never been applied sincerely to either sister, though Ivy, the youngest by two years, might be deemed the better looking, because she has detectable cheekbones and a waist narrower than her hips. Isabel has very little in the way of body fat, but is square-shaped from almost any angle. Even her face is square-shaped. It’s been that way since birth....


Jack’s singular discovery was that things are, in fact, as they seem. Keys that get lost, for example, especially those that turn up in what would appear to be in plain sight—on a desktop, a counter, or the middle of a made bed—actually do cease to exist until the instant they are found. Likewise, the sky is, in fact, a bowl placed over the earth—a pale blue bowl, matte-surfaced, lighter near its rim, darker near its crown; or, at night: a sort of colander, randomly punctured by buckshot, light shining through...



Now they tell us that we have destroyed our world
with our fires and our feasts, but isn’t that what
we have always feared? Isn’t that what our priests
have always muttered in incense smoke and cave
dark from one time to the next? Isn’t that the worry
on our doctors’ faces? The answering sweatiness
on our finger tips? Our mute and sacred knowing?
We keep changing the words, but the meaning
soaks through: That shadow on your lung, your filth,
your shame—you dared to think that you
were loved, but joy must have its revenge....

MILOSZ'S CHOICE; An Investigation of Sentimentality

SEVERAL YEARS AGO I had an argument with a woman about Czeslaw Milosz. I no longer remember the woman’s name but I do remember vividly where we were: L'Isle sur la Sorgue, a city of canals and creaking waterwheels in the south of France...


In 1988, just before I began teaching writing in the New York City public schools with Teachers & Writers Collaborative, I was feeling pretty confident. I had just sold my first book -- a short story collection -- to a major publisher, I had a masters in English literature, and I had worked for eight years as a freelance journalist. It seemed to me that -- at least when it came to teaching elementary school -- I knew everything I needed to know about writing...


PROLOGUE: Working For Human Happiness

On the morning of September 24, 1854, forty-five children sat in the front benches of a meeting house in Dowagiac, Michigan. Most were between ten and twelve years old, though at least one was six, and a few were as old as fifteen....