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Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories


There is no simple way, no easy or uncomplicated way, to look into the face of a filthy old woman on the street. We are frightened or saddened or repelled, feel guilty if not resentful, and then we avert our eyes. In a society that disdains old women even in the best of circumstances, we are naturally overwhelmed by those who belong to no person or place, those who, by existing this way, violate every conventional notion of “femininity” and force us to remember death. If the old gal is crazy as well — and so many of them are — we hurry past, cross the street, avoid her altogether.

A Brutal Sadness

Capital Punishment And The Politics Of Vengeance

This is the fourth in a series of essays inspired by the principles of A Course in Miracles. The Course is a one-year, self-study curriculum that guides its students toward an instinctive, utilitarian spirituality by restoring their contact with what it calls the “Internal Teacher.” Published in 1976, the Course was written down over a period of seven years by Columbia University research psychologist Helen Schucman, who claimed to hear a soundless voice giving her a compelling “inner dictation.” Schucman, who died in 1981, never claimed authorship of the Course. The voice of the Course identifies itself as the living consciousness of Jesus Christ and offers a number of corrections to modern Christian beliefs.

The Only Child

We are taking a twenty-two-hour train ride from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Ann Arbor, Michigan, this year to have Thanksgiving with my mother. My brother Gary will drive a double shift on his truck route, take a three-hour nap, and then drive himself, his wife, and their son all night from Paducah, Kentucky, to Michigan to be there for Thanksgiving, too.

At Seven

To help me write a series of stories for young readers, I approached some of my adult friends, seeking memories of their childhoods. I wanted to know what they recalled of family life, school, and their favorite books and games at the age of seven, which took us back to the 1950s.

Letter To Maxim

The story of you is starting in me again. When I think of you, I see a road, a long gray stretch of lonely two-lane highway, a yellow stripe painted down its middle, a road in the middle of nowhere. You and I are standing by the side of the road hitchhiking, but no cars come. It is some obscure place in Canada: Thunder Bay. We are on our way cross-country, headed for the Canadian Rockies. And after that? Who knows.


Uncle Ruff

In the spring of ’72, we took a long holiday and fished for bass. I had accumulated leave from work that needed using, and Charlie Joiner had the good fortune to be laid off in warm weather. The opportunity for intense fishing does not come along often enough in a normal lifetime. We jumped on it.

Readers Write

Ten Years Later

When I was sixteen I had loved Frank in a foolish and innocent way, based solely on the fact that he made me feel beautiful. He was the first man to call me beautiful, to teach me to dance, and to kiss me. He never promised me anything or threatened me in any way. We never made love. We never even had an argument. We dated one summer, he left town in the fall, and for him that was it. I cried and looked at his picture and wrote his name and dreamed about him. I wrote him letters and told him that I loved him. He never responded.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸


The study of crime begins with the knowledge of oneself.

Henry Miller

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