Writers’ Blog Tour

Welcome to the writers’ blog tour. I hear it’s sweeping the nation. I’m thankful Maud Casey–for being Maud,  for inviting me to join the tour, and for writing  The Man Who Walked Away, a tender and somehow physical novel that I’ve thought about most days since I read it. You can read Maud’s eloquent contribution to the […]

Ebenezer’s Magic Lanterns

I never thought I’d teach Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. I always thought of it as sappy and grim–not an appealing combination. But a literary critic, Joss Marsh, gave me a whole new view of Dickens’s perennially adapted story about greed, memory, haunting, and transformation. Joss Marsh helped me learn to like a book I […]

Jane Eyre, Goth Girl

Jane Eyre is a strange creature. Charlotte Brontë’s heroine–often thought of as a kind of every girl–is much weirder than she gets credit for. She’s a taciturn idealist with a gothic imagination who spends much of her waking life “in a kind of artist’s dreamland” drawing shipwrecks, corpses, and icebergs; she prefers rudeness and downright […]

“I Am Ryder”; or, My Life as Somebody Else

A Conversation about Novel Reading, with Gloria Fisk Does reading a novel change you? Can a novel make a person more compassionate or cosmopolitan, as philosopher Richard Rorty suggested in the late eighties? Or more foolhardy, even delusional, as Victorian public intellectual Margaret Oliphant was fond of warning her contemporaries? It’s a huge pleasure to […]

Jane Austen’s Hypochondriacs

Jane Austen wants us to know at least four things about hypochondriacs: 1.) They are compulsive storytellers, 2.) They have little sympathy (a quality she valorizes in other characters), 3.) They use their stories to control others, 4.) Their suffering is real nonetheless, so they deserve the sympathy they can’t give others. I’m teaching the […]

My grandpa was a tiny party. The photos prove it.

At twelve, Ralph is a tiny party writhing under the heavy hands of frustrated nuns. St. Vincent’s School for Boys in San Francisco doesn’t suit him. Most of these boys got here through a petty crime, their own or their parents. For others it was a parent’s suicide or murder. For Ralph, it was his […]

Insert Penile Stylet between the Eyes

This fall, biologists Rolanda Lange (Tubingen University, Germany), Johanna Weringhausen (Monash University, Australia), and Nils Anthes (Monash University, Australia) published an article about the “traumatic mating” practices of a colorful little hermaprhodite sea slug called Siphopteron in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (for Biology). The study got some press, because the mating practices […]

The Ladies

I’ve been thinking about writing something short about life with chickens, documenting some of the inter-species behavior on our little plot of woods. Chickens are generally entertaining and often fascinating–for example, when a hen decides she’s a rooster or when the flock decides to toss around a snake or when a lost hen turns up […]

Acid Baby

  It’s been nineteen days since insemination. My teenage parents-to-be don’t know about the accident in her womb or the wedding. The sand in their toes and the sound of the Pacific Ocean might as well be in another dimension from the near future that is their fate. The moon is a blazing chartreuse, bopping around […]


ASAP Science videos are entertaining–and full of facts. But the facts delivered in a few minutes of video can’t help but suffer from a lack of nuance. Of course it’s true that we don’t look great or think well when sleep deprived, I wish the video had addressed the ragged feeling of sleep deprivation. The […]

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