For T-Bone, aka T., T-Boney, Mr. T., Buddy, Bub, Best Dog in the World, Little Fucker, Sweetness, and, in Italy, Tiaboni. Long May You Run. A common bumper sticker around town, adhered to the back of sporty SUVs with bike racks, on Suburu station wagons, and Prius (Prii?), reads: “Dog is My Co-Pilot.” I’ve never quite understood what this means, beyond the obvious dyslexic play on God, but you do see a lot of dogs riding shotgun in these cars, looking eager and contented, some with their heads out the window, floppy ears blown back, tongues lolling.             G’s dog, T-Bone,…

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Watching Usain Bolt in the 100-meter dash at the 2016 Rio Olympics, got me thinking. I’ve always been fond of sorting the world into my own odd Aristotelian categories. For example, Iliad people v. Odyssey people. Do you see life as a battle, or as a journey? Novelist or short story writer. Is your temperament better suited for the rhythms of real life, or for the stop-time of the transcendent moment? Heart v. Head Artists. Is your work a sincere attempt to communicate something about the human condition, or is it an in-joke, a you-get-it-or-you-don’t-and-fuck-you-if-you-don’t provocation? Of course, the categories…

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“They fought the whole time: walking single-file on the narrow stone pathways by the River Arno, vital points lost to the revving of motorcycles and the high bright laughter of tourists; gesticulating with gelato spoons as they sat outside a café in the Piazza della Signoria; standing on the second floor of the Uffizi, lowering their voices before a bevy of Madonnas—(grim, grinning, stately, plump, aloof, aloft, alluring; Madonnas electric, dyspeptic, melancholic, myopic, dowdy, dreamy, and delicate)—ranging from buca to loggia; sputtering in and out of leather shops, through churches and palazzi, between market stalls of zucchini flowers and porcini…

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I. There was a crawlspace in our basement, behind the washer and dryer, that hooked around in an L, and ended behind the staircase into the house. I know because I crawled in there once, while my parents were out, with a bottle of my mother’s pills, and a heart full of angst.             I must have been around fourteen, and I had just read The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath, in which the protagonist, Esther Greenwood, does exactly the same thing, though to greater effect. A precocious reader, I had already fallen under Plath’s dark spell, and, like many…

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Here is the epilogue to my unfinished novel, The Fetishist, which I stumbled upon just now as I was cleaning up my office: A murderer might be counted on for a fancy prose style, as the exiled lepidopterist, Mr. N. once observed, but his H.H. was also a lover, a dreamer, a madman, a sad man, a fabulist, and, most decidedly, a fetishist. And if any of us in the literary realm know anything about anything, (which, of course, we don’t), it is that it is to the likes of H.H., E. Bovary, and Anna K., that we turn, when…

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My latest CT scan came back with what they call a mixed response. Some of my lung nodules are shrinking, but more of them are getting bigger. My response to this is mixed. ###

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Sometime in 2006, I got an idea for a novel. A neighbor of mine in New Hampshire, a violist/violinist, told me a story about going to visit an old girlfriend who had multiple sclerosis. They had had a terrible breakup two decades earlier, and been out of touch for a long time, but when he heard she was sick, he went to see her.             In my novel, Daniel, a Caucasian concert violinist, falls in love with Alma, a Korean American cellist. He almost marries her, but, because she catches him cheating, their relationship ends, and, afterwards, he exclusively dates…

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I was four. It was the middle of the day. My mother had just taken a shower. Her hair was wrapped in a towel. I want to say that it was maroon.             The pediatrician came to the house. I opened the door. I liked him. His name was Dr. Gleason. I was surprised to see him at outside his office. I think he shook my hand.             He said something to my mother in a low voice. She dropped her head to her hands and started to cry.             I followed the doctor into the kitchen, where he called my…

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I've been going to yoga classes on and off, (mostly off), for decades, but it wasn’t until recently that I started going regularly. Because the cancer has come back in my lungs, focusing on the breath suddenly seems of paramount importance. Deep, relaxed breathing helped me get through three separate rounds of chemotherapy, five weeks of radiation, countless mammograms, ultrasounds, MRIs, CT scans, Neulasta injections, and blood tests. Beyond this, though, whenever I slow down enough to concentrate on my breathing—the mindful act of drawing air in and pushing it out—I’m reminded that I am alive, and as long as…

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I. Charlottesville, Virginia, 1966 Lately, I have been trying to get myself to remember specific moments from my past. It’s a kind of memory exercise, prompted by two kinds of amnesia: 1) the fog of chemo brain that covers everything, far and recent, in fuzzy shadow, and 2) the strange self-erasure that comes, I think, from having been unhappy for large periods of my life.             One of my strongest memories from childhood is riding my bike up and down the hill, in Charlottesville, Virginia. We lived in a small neighborhood for junior faculty members and their families, on the…

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When I was a child, I was scared of many things. Dogs terrified me. Fireworks, and thunderstorms, even popping balloons, drove me wild with fear. I had to check my closet each night to make sure no monsters or psychos were crouching inside. A premature viewing of To Kill a Mockingbird did not impress upon me the evils of racism, or the dignity of Gregory Peck, but instead, left me traumatized by Boo Radley, rabid dogs, and derelict houses.             In an attempt to cure me of my fear of dogs, my father decided to get me a puppy. He…

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I was a born fiction writer, which is to say, I was a born liar. From the time I was able to speak, I lied about everything, big and small, even if there was no good reason to lie, or when the lie was easily exposed. I told a woman at a birthday party that my mother had just given birth to twins (both girls), ten minutes before my still visibly pregnant mother showed up to take me home. I told a neighbor that we were going to California for spring vacation, even though she could clearly observe our comings-and-goings from…

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She is standing under the overhang outside the yoga studio. It is raining. The bag with her mat and water bottle is slung over one shoulder. She is talking into a cell phone. It is her primary care physician calling on a Sunday afternoon to tell her that she has breast cancer. Her doctor is all business, almost severe. It seems to her that she is being pawned off on the experts, the oncologists, surgeons, and radiation therapy doctors. She has passed into the realm of serious medicine, no longer the chummy annual physicals, the calibrating antidepressants. Why, she wonders,…

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The truth is that writing has always been hard for me. This is both an understatement and a commonplace. Most writers will tell you that writing well under the best of circumstances is nearly impossible. Think about it: you are trying to commit to language the whole spectrum of fugitive emotions, cobweb sensibilities, inchoate longings, repressed fears, hopes, dreams, grievances, and delusions, for which there are, literally, no words. It’s like trying to write a libretto for a thunderstorm—“Crash! Boom! Bam!”–-or narrating a sunset—“There’s this pink light, and now it’s getting more intense, more fuchsia, then mauve…” Not that the…

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I. I figured, why not have fun with cancer? So, I brought my friend Amber with me to try on wigs. This was right after my initial diagnosis, when the idea of having cancer was still largely theoretical. I had no symptoms, I had received no treatment; I had simply been told that I had this disease and needed to have chemotherapy, which would cause my hair to fall out.             Secrets of a Duchess was the unlikely name of the shop, owned by an eccentric Englishwoman named Judy, who bore a passing resemblance to Dame Edna Everidge, with silver wig,…

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Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king's horses and all the king's men Couldn't put Humpty together again. -- English Nursery Rhyme I. Falling There are many ways to fall. From great distances or slight. Backwards or forwards. At a leisurely pace, like Alice down the rabbit hole, or precipitously, like tumbling Jack. Icarus fell from over-celebration. Humpty Dumpty was just minding his own business. Satan. Did he fall or was he pushed?             The falling is one thing—the windmilling moment of flailing limbs and slipping feet,…

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When I was a child I was so eager to command your attention, to tell you all that was in me to say, that I would tug on your sleeve, hop up and down, and say, “Oh! Oh! Oh!” My words would tumble out like so many bits and baubles, and disengaging yourself from the torrent would require the kind of rudeness that grown-ups only exercise with children. “That will be quite enough of that, thank you very much!”             I feel like that child now, wanting to tell you everything that is in me, all the things I have experienced,…

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She was heavier than he anticipated. Her once familiar body looked brittle but felt dense, as if all her former power had been wrung tight, distilled to essence even as it shrank to helplessness. Her hands, clasped around his neck, were vise-like. Daniel perspired from the effort of carrying her and from trying to hide the effort from her. “Up you go,” he said, swinging her sideways into the van. A sharp inhalation of breath. Here it comes, he thought, but she said nothing. “You okay?” Alma nodded, her face chalky, her eyes closed against him. He walked around to…

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They had fought the whole time: walking single-file on the narrow stone pathways by the River Arno, vital points lost to the revving of motorcycles and the high bright laughter of tourists; gesticulating with gelato spoons as they sat outside a café in the Piazza della Signoria; standing on the second floor of the Uffizi Gallery, lowering their voices before a bevy of Madonnas—(grim, grinning, stately, plump, aloof, aloft, alluring: Madonnas electric, dyspeptic, melancholic, myopic, dowdy, dreamy, and delicate)—ranging from buca to loggia; sputtering in and out of leather shops, through churches and palazzos, between market stalls of zucchini flowers…

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What Kyoko had come to think of as the defining moment of her life had come spring semester of her freshman year in college.  Her parents had been divorced for six years, her mother dead for four.  She and Keith had been going out since October.  He was the shy, hulking kid who lived down the hall, with a mass of curly blond hair that grew like ground cover, across his head and down his face, to his chin and neck.  From the beginning he’d been devoted to her, and Kyoko liked his bulk, his gentle giant quality.  Losing her…

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