SEPTEMBER 24, 2014 2:53PM


Whenever I read about how apathetic or lazy or stupid or self-centered or entitled Millennials are, I have to remind myself of just how unreliable media portraits of a generation can be. I know this because I was born in 1958, near the height of the so-called Baby-Boom generation, and yet… Read full post »

AUGUST 31, 2014 12:52PM


One of the most common pieces of sports advice given by coaches to players is “Be the ball.” It’s kind of a Zen thing. In order to achieve success at a sport, a player should focus on exactly what the ball might need in a given situation to make it through… Read full post »

MARCH 7, 2014 7:01PM


I am not passionate about politics, either my own or anybody else’s. I don’t corner people at parties and demand that they join me in a march against global warming or assault weapons. My inclination is to shy away from anyone who wants to cram his pet political peeve down my… Read full post »


This is the tale of the Tavistock ghost

And how a young girl named Agatha Post

Moved into the house in which he dwelt,

How she started out scared but eventually dealt

With her fear in a way both healthy and good.

But let’s… Read full post »

Never tell a writer the truth about his work; it’s bound to anger him. I made that mistake last June, and the writer/friend whose work I criticized hasn’t spoken to me since. Albert’s silence is a loud one because he used to call me every single weekday morning from his home… Read full post »

MARCH 29, 2013 12:46PM


There’s a lot of talk about minimalism these days, about ridding ourselves of excess material goods and simplifying our lives. Back in March, a multimillionaire named Graham Hill published an article in the New York Times in which he boasted about living in a 420-square-foot studio apartment an/… Read full post »

In a personal essay published March 22 in the New York Times, writer Emily Yellin told of being raped 30 years ago, at the age of 16, by a star football player at her Memphis high school. This happened at an alcohol-fueled party that Yellin attended in a hotel room. She… Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
MARCH 8, 2013 1:09PM

Breakfast Epiphanies: Encounters With Notorious Homophobes

Last February 8th, I visited Salon’s website and discovered that the lead story was about a woman named Maggie Gallagher, whom the article described as “a right-wing traditional marriage zealot” and “gay marriage’s top foe.” The feature was written by Mark Oppenhei… Read full post »

Every January my friend Bill begins to talk about his upcoming trip to Hollywood “for the Oscars.” This year, I finally got curious enough to find out exactly what he meant by that. “Do you actually sit outside the Dolby Theater and watch all the celebrities coming and going?”… Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 21, 2013 5:24PM


I’m 54 years old and have never vomited. In fact, I seem to be incapable of barfing. Nothing I’ve ever eaten has come back up. It’s likely that I occasionally spit up a bit of milk on my mother’s shoulder when I was a little baby, but I can’t remember it.… Read full post »

DECEMBER 21, 2012 5:06PM


My favorite part of a novel? Roughly forty pages from the end. Every novel is different, of course. Some, such as Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn and William Kennedy’s Quinn’s Book, have superb opening chapters that they never quite live up to. Both Of Human Bondage and East oRead full post »

SEPTEMBER 19, 2012 1:43PM


My wife and I have been married for 32 years. She has almost always made more money than I have. For most of our married life, she has worked as an escrow officer. My primary focus was my “writing career,” a career so spectacularly unsuccessful that I cannot speak or write… Read full post »

The triumph of the MFA mills is nearly complete. Most contemporary American writers of what is called “serious fiction” seem to be products of academia. And because academia is generally liberal, most American fiction writers seem to be leaning left these days. The MFA-mill/serious-litera… Read full post »

FEBRUARY 22, 2012 11:30AM

I, The Juror

In the 1957 film Twelve Angry Men, Henry Fonda portrays the lone dissenter on a jury whose other eleven members all favor a guilty verdict. To my dismay, I found myself in just that position recently.


In the early morning hours of October 12, 2008, gunfire broke out at an AM/PM… Read full post »

This month, in recognition of Valentine’s Day, I’d like to tell you why the kitchen, rather than, say, the bedroom or the parlor, is the best place to audition someone you may be considering for the role of soulmate.


You can learn a lot about a person by fixing a meal… Read full post »

FEBRUARY 2, 2012 2:47PM

Life Lessons From the Kitchen

As an avid amateur baker and an enthusiastic eater, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen thinking about food. And when I’m not in the kitchen I can often be found curled up in bed with a good cookbook. My wife is much the same as me in this… Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 26, 2011 7:22PM


The social structure of sidewalk life hangs partly on what can be called self-appointed public characters. A public character is anyone who is in frequent contact with a wide circle of people and who is sufficiently interested to make himself a public character. A public character need have no specia… Read full post »

When I was a boy I always contrived to sit near the globe in every classroom of my parochial school. That way, if the lesson was boring (which most of them seemed to be), I at least had something to focus my imagination on. Of all the many fascinating aspects of… Read full post »

Roughly nine percent of Americans are unemployed these days, and an additional 16 percent are underemployed. That means that about 25 percent of all Americans don’t have enough work to do. In the world of the American romantic comedy, however, the numbers are much worse. Almost all major rom-co… Read full post »

As I write this, I am sitting behind the counter of a small Sacramento used-bookstore. The proprietor is a friend of mine. He is tending to a sick relative for the next few months and so I am watching the store in his absence. He is paying me nothing for my… Read full post »

On August 16 of this year I will celebrate my 53rd birthday. If my old high-school classmates reunited for the purpose of naming a “least successful graduate from the class of 1976,” I would almost certainly be it. For most of my adult life, I have been trying to earn a/… Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
JULY 8, 2011 2:44PM


I saw a TV commercial last night that sums up a lot of what is wrong with modern life. In it, a lovely young woman tells a man of her own age that she is going to a bookstore to pick up a copy of some sensational new bestseller. She asks… Read full post »

JULY 8, 2011 1:06PM


According to the latest government statistics, about 20 percent of American men between the ages of 25 and 54 are without employment. I am among that “missing fifth.” I collect no unemployment benefits, so, as far as the government statisticians are concerned, I am not merely unemployed,… Read full post »

MAY 19, 2011 5:58PM


I am a cake baker. You’ll notice I said “baker” and not “artist.” I do not create eight-tiered culinary masterpieces that stretch four feet high and are decorated with scenes from “Shrek.” My cakes do not have PVC or copper pipes holding them up. In fact, I d… Read full post »

OCTOBER 12, 2010 4:12PM


The current foreclosure crisis will someday produce its own memorialists, writers who will give us autobiographical poems, stories, screenplays, and novels about the horrors and hardships of home-loss. But until that wave arrives, those interested in immersing themselves in the literature of disposse… Read full post »