Sunday, August 30, 2020

Sunday Sentence: Ferdinand, the Man with the Kind Heart by Irmgard Keun

Simply put, the best sentence(s) I’ve read this past week, presented out of context and without commentary.

Children are the bonny little blossoms in the moldering garden of life.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Sunday Sentence: The Evidence of Things Not Seen by James Baldwin

Simply put, the best sentence(s) I’ve read this past week, presented out of context and without commentary.

The Western world is located somewhere between the Statue of Liberty and the pillar of salt.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Sunday Sentence: Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

Simply put, the best sentence(s) I’ve read this past week, presented out of context and without commentary.

       Wine in, truth out.

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

Monday, August 3, 2020

My First Time: Kim Powers

The First Time I Told the Truth
(Then Lied About It) 

It was third grade. I don’t remember exactly what the assignment was, but I’ll never forget what I wrote for it. All these decades later it remains one of my first truths, first secrets, first confessions, and now it’s found its way into my new novel, Rules For Being Dead, which is filled with family secrets. (Whenever my friends think I share way too much on Facebook and other social media, little do they know it all started way back when.)

It was my first big writing assignment, maybe to illustrate what a “paragraph” was or to show off my newly-learned cursive writing skills. I know it can’t have been one of those “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” things, because it was late winter/early spring, but it has a sense of that. Did the teacher tell us to write something real? Write something we did last week? Write something painful? It is doubtful she would have asked that of third graders, but what I wrote was painful, without really knowing why.

With a freshly sharpened pencil, I wrote about how my mother, a fourth-grade teacher herself, had just taken me and my twin brother to look at a new apartment in a different town, as she got ready to leave my father. My mother’s sister lived in that nearby Texas town, Plano, so we wouldn’t be alone. In fact, the apartment building wasn’t far from where my Aunt Altha lived, a large brick building with its own parking lot, nestled down near a brook and trees. It was the late ’60s, and apartment buildings (as far as I knew) were these cool new things where fun people lived. Swinging singles! My mother might become single, but never swinging (except for that frying pan she swung at my father during a manic episode.) And with nine-year-old twins in tow, she certainly wouldn’t be hanging around the pool at the weekend cookout; she’d be in hiding, on the lam from an alcoholic husband.

We were shown around the apartment by a woman manager nursing a beer; shades of my father; I’m surprised my mother even stayed for the tour. I immediately hopped on the bed in the bigger of the two bedrooms, yelling, “This one is ours!” Even now, I can conjure up the cool-to-the-touch feeling of the bed’s floral, polyester coverlet. It was pretty, but what I loved most in the room was a beautiful objet d’art on the dresser: a ceramic sculpture of a gnarly tree branch, painted brown, encircled with green ceramic leaves and purple glass grapes. The grapes were clear and see-thru, except for a few air bubbles trapped inside. A touch of class in our new home, at least to lower-middle-class Texan eyes. My mother told us not to tell our father where we had gone, but she didn’t say anything about not writing about it.

So I did. I was already reading little articles about how to be a writer (I particularly remember one from old-school mystery queen Phyllis A. Whitney), and they all said, “make details count.” I wrote my little third-grade heart out describing those damn grapes. The flannel shirt the manager wore. The Schlitz beer bottle she drank from. Writing my little assignment trumped the secret or the shame that my mother was leaving my father, but it wouldn’t remain a secret for much longer. My teacher would read this paragraph about her friend and fellow teacher, who just happened to be my mother, and pretty soon, all the teachers at J. L. Greer Elementary School would know. 

But first, I showed it to my best friend Kathy Green. Instead of praising my detail work, the first thing she said was, “Is this real? Did this really happen?” A question I would get a lot in my literary career. In that split second before I answered—and I remember this as clear as day, too, looking through Kathy’s Coke bottle lenses—I knew I couldn’t tell the truth. I answered back, “Of course not. I just made it up.”

I had revealed my family’s truth for the first time, then immediately lied about it.

Didn’t Judas do something like that?

That “Of course not” is crucial. Not a simple yes or not, but a definitive “Of course not.” Just nine years old, but in those few seconds between Kathy’s question and my answer, I realized the enormity of what I’d done, the consequences that could result. I hadn’t thought things through. (Do third graders ever think things through? Is that even possible?) I hadn’t honored the promise I’d made to my mother, exact words be damned. Bizarrely, I don’t remember my teacher’s comment on the assignment, I don’t even remember her name. But what Kathy Green said is burned into my memory.

Call it my first stab at memoir.

A decade later, for a first-year college class, I’d write a sort of P.S. to that story, this time about finding my mother trying to kill herself. I didn’t know exactly what I was seeing at the time, but I knew it wasn’t normal to be looking at my mother’s face through a layer of dry cleaner’s plastic, which she had wrapped around her head and tied tight with the belt from my new Easter Sunday outfit. Our eyes locked for seconds—just the way mine had with Kathy Green—before my mother reached up and ripped the plastic off, then said she was trying to get rid of a cold.

She had lied to me, too—just like I had lied to Kathy Green.

But this time in my writing class, when my fellow freshmen asked if it was true, I finally said yes.

We never moved to that swinging singles apartment. A few months later, after seeing it, after me writing my first little paragraph, my mother was dead. Natural causes? An accident? Suicide? Murder? It was never really clear. Until now.

I’ve finally gathered up all those little pieces I’ve written through the years, all those loose family ramblings and revelations, and put them into Rules For Being Dead. In it, a little boy loses his mother, and no one will tell him what happened. No one will tell her either, the dead mother herself, who’s forced to float around in limbo, looking for the answers that will set her free. It’s the book I’ve been trying to write, needing to write, for most of my life.

This time, I’m ready to tell the truth.

Kim Powers is a two-time Emmy winner and author of the novels
Capote in Kansas and Dig Two Graves, as well as the memoir The History of Swimming, a Barnes & Noble Discover Award winner and Lambda Literary Award finalist for Best Memoir of the Year. He also wrote the screenplay for the festival-favorite indie film Finding North. Powers is the Senior Writer for ABC's 20/20, part of the team that has received three consecutive Edward R. Murrow Awards. A native Texan, he received an MFA from the Yale School of Drama. He lives in Manhattan and Asbury Park, NJ. His new novel, Rules For Being Dead, will be published on August 4.

My First Time is a regular feature in which writers talk about virgin experiences in their writing and publishing careers, ranging from their first rejection to the moment of holding their first published book in their hands. For information on how to contribute, contact David Abrams.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Sunday Sentence: Homie by Danez Smith

Simply put, the best sentence(s) I’ve read this past week, presented out of context and without commentary.

       someone dragged the screaming boy
       so deep into the woods he sounds like the trees now.

Homie by Danez Smith

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Sunday Sentence: Blood Ties & Brown Liquor by Sean Hill

Simply put, the best sentence(s) I’ve read this past week, presented out of context and without commentary.

       A flock of starlings alights in a tree and chatters,
       each a night of twinkling stars on its back, then
       the hush and inexplicable lighting out en masse,

       black whirlwind wheeling against blue, rippling
       like breeze-ruffled trees, the path of prayers,
       searching before coming down to light again.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Sunday Sentence: Blood Ties & Brown Liquor by Sean Hill

Simply put, the best sentence(s) I’ve read this past week, presented out of context and without commentary.

       Lord, I wish I knew what ails me. If I was good
       enough to be a dog I’d lose my bark.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Friday Freebie: The Mountains Sing by by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

Congratulations to Carole Mertz, winner of last week’s Friday Freebie contest: Brave Deeds by David Abrams. Thanks to everyone who participated in the blog’s 10th Anniversary celebration!

This week’s contest is for The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai. You may remember hearing about this debut novel earlier at the blog; now I’m offering one lucky reader a chance to win a new hardback of the book The New York Times calls “[An] absorbing, stirring novel . . . that, in more than one sense, remedies history.” Keep scrolling for more information on The Mountains Sing and how to enter the contest...

With the epic sweep of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and the lyrical beauty of Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, The Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Trần family, set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War. Trần Diệu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Nội, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Hồ Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore not just her beloved country, but her family apart. Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Việt Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope. The Mountains Sing is celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s first novel in English.

If you’d like a chance at winning The Mountains Sing, simply e-mail your name and mailing address to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line. Please include your mailing address in the body of the e-mail.

The Fine Print
One entry per person, please (or, two if you share the post—see below). Despite its name, the Friday Freebie remains open to entries until midnight on June 11, at which time I’ll draw the winning names. I’ll announce the lucky reader on June 12.

The Finer Print
If you’d like to join the mailing list for the once-a-week newsletter, simply add the words “Sign me up for the newsletter” in the body of your email. Your e-mail address and other personal information will never be sold or given to a third party (except in those instances where the publisher requires a mailing address for sending Friday Freebie winners copies of the book).

The Finest Print
Want to double your odds of winning? Get an extra entry in the contest by posting a link to this webpage on your blog, your Facebook wall or by tweeting it on Twitter. Once you’ve done any of those things, send me an additional e-mail saying “I’ve shared” and I’ll put your name in the hat twice.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Breaching the Levee of Rage

It’s hard to write this week. And yet, I composed something: a raw draft of my thoughts after returning from a peaceful vigil at the Montana State Capitol on Sunday. This is a departure from the usual book conversation on this blog, but now, I think, is the time to take a break from the everyday comfort of our lives and to read something that makes us shift in our seat.

Breaching the Levee of Rage

An acquaintance, someone you don’t know personally, emails you an invitation to attend a peaceful protest and vigil for George Floyd, the middle-aged man who died in Minneapolis after a cop knelt on his neck for eight minutes.

You share that invitation with your wife, who is in another part of your small apartment, on her own laptop reading news stories about protests in other cities (“Listen to this: they’re even protesting in London and Germany!”), and though neither of you say anything aloud in the quiet Sunday morning hush of the city apartment, and though neither of you have ever been to a protest or raised a sign in anger, there’s an unspoken understanding: you’ll both go. After passively reading headlines for too long, the levee of your rage has been breached. You are flooded with resolve.

You make signs.

You drive to the State Capitol building and think ahead to park under the shade of a wide-branched tree two blocks away. Who knows what will happen in the next two hours? Who knows how hot you’ll be after the rally? Who can predict if you’ll also be running for your life, lungs full of teargas and rubber bullets ricocheting off the street around you at the end of those two hours?

Hold on, you think. This is Montana, the so-called Last Best Place, and the chance of your day turning into one of smoke and screams is relatively low. This is not Minneapolis, this is not Washington, D.C.

But you never know. Anything can happen in this new world.

You are wary but feeling brave. You are unsure how to properly “act” at a protest but you’re ready to stand and occupy space on a sidewalk for two hours.

You approach the great lawn of the Capitol grounds and are disappointed to see the crowd is not a blocks-long, seething blanket of bodies and signs, but more like a child’s palmful of salt and pepper sprinkled along the sidewalk. The paper will eventually report 150 individuals were at the event that day. You are reminded of the importance of showing up and the dangers of complacency.

You join the others with signs markered with “Black Lives Matter,” and “De-Militarize the Police,” and “Justice for George.” Your sign is the bottom half of a sturdy cardboard box: you haven’t torn it apart to make one flat piece of cardboard—it is still itself, a box bottom, and can easily be reassembled with its top half, the two parts rejoined as one box. Your wife stands next to you with the other half of the box. You can each grip your box half by the finger holes cut into the side of the box and hold the flat, markered side out to the world. Your wife’s box has the words “I Can’t Breathe.” Your box is simply a line drawing of George Floyd’s face (rendered by author Edward Carey) taped to the center of your box-bottom, with “1974” running down one side and “2020” on the other.

You step to the curb. You raise your arms. You hold George Floyd’s face and the span of his life to the sky. Beside you, your wife’s box pleads, “I Can’t Breathe!”

You stand near the corner at a four-way intersection where cars are forced to slow and stop.

You hold your sign above your head and stare at the passing windshields, willing them with your mind to look at your sign, to flick their gaze from the road to see George’s face and to remember that here was a man who was suddenly famous, worldwide, simply because he died. You hope that driver passing you will think about the fact that the only reason he or she knows about George Floyd is because George Floyd is no longer on this earth and how incredibly sad that is, the fact that a man is now famous for no longer existing.

Some drivers honk and cheer, flashing upraised thumbs in your direction.

A greater majority of cars glide by silent as coffins. You think bad thoughts of those people. But then you have to remind yourself that just because someone doesn’t honk doesn’t mean they don’t support your cause. In fact, you yourself are generally a non-honker; why, just the previous day you drove past a young woman sitting at a cardboard table along Park Avenue to get people to sign a petition for a cause you support and your hand never touched the horn. You vow to start being a supportive honker.

You try to think good thoughts about all people.

Cars slide by, passengers and drivers pivot their heads to look at you. Some stare, some glare, some scoff with a harsh cough of contempt, some rigidly refuse to look in your direction. If you don’t see me, I don’t exist, right?

You are flipped off. Someone purposefully rolls down their window and insults your group with a terrible slur, their voice trailing out of their truck like a banner ragged and frayed at the edges.

Your back tenses, hardens like the concrete you’re standing on, and knots up with a half dozen marbles of pain. You take a deep breath and push your sign higher.

Cars honk. Cars don’t honk.

Some people in the crowd of 150—a weak, scattered few—try to start up a chant, but it doesn’t get off the ground. There are too many syllables and nobody really knows what anyone else is saying, so the chant ripples weakly, like a snake struggling to come to life, but eventually dies into a mumbling murmur and embarrassed laughter.

You start thinking about headlines from other protests. You look down and realize you and your wife are half in the gutter and half on the black tar of the street. You have a sudden image of your bodies flipping into the air over the hood of a car. You nudge your wife and tell her to step back onto the sidewalk.

An older man, maybe in his seventies, walks through the crowd carrying a huge American flag on an eight-foot pole. Even though he has a gentle face and appears harmless, he is surrounded by other protestors who question his intentions. You yourself wonder why he is so adamantly waving this flag, this symbol that now seems tainted by “the other side.” Your wife whispers, “I think he’s okay. I think he’s one of us.”

You think about those words. Us. Them. It’s come to this, then? You know it has and it feels like a tide too strong to resist.

At 12:50 p.m., protest organizers circulate and remind the crowd of the pre-planned moment of silence at 1 p.m.

When the time comes, a new ripple runs across the crowd. Voices hush, knees bend, and—pretty much in one accord—the crowd drops to the ground, one half of a stadium “wave” (remember those?).

You begin the eight minutes of silence: the length of time Office Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck on May 25.

Your left knee digs into the sidewalk. You prop your body with your right foot. You lift your sign above your head. You are uncomfortable but you are alive.

Your muscles clench, the grit presses into the skin of your knee, your breath comes faster and faster, strained through the thick sieve of your mask. You think you will die.

Only four-and-a-half minutes of silence have passed.

You think of George Floyd: he had no choice, he had to go the whole eight minutes, not knowing when or if that knee would lift off his throat.

You start to think of George’s jaw, pressed and wrenched and scraped against the pavement. Your face swells with tears.

Your body is now shaking uncontrollably.

Then the eight minutes are reached, the silence is broken by a low murmuring in the crowd, and you are alive again. You are a white person who is still alive on a sidewalk in Helena, Montana on a nice Sunday afternoon. Birds might even be singing in the trees over your head.

You stand, with the rush of blood flowing out into your veins from your knees, and you feel an electric surge of hatred for all those who flipped you off, called you that horrible word, and all those iron-necked drivers who, worse yet, refused to look at you. You surge with emotion, something like a growl even rips up and out of your throat.

You stay on the sidewalk for another five minutes after the moment of silence has passed, then you turn to your wife and say, “Are you ready to leave?” and she nods. You lower your signs then carry your boxes with George and his plea for breath back across the State Capitol lawn. Other people at the edges of the crowd are doing the same.

You are done. You have said, or not said, what you have come to say. You know it is not enough—it will never be enough—but you stood and you will stand again because now you have a fire in your belly. You are agitated and you are an agitator.

You go home, log on to Facebook and write this on your wall: “Thank you to the dozens and dozens of horn-honking supportive Helena drivers for your Symphony of Horns. Thanks also to the drivers who flipped us off and called us names—you helped us keep our perspective and remember that the world is not yet completely rid of tiny-hearted assholes. Keep fighting the good fight, my brothers and sisters.”

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Fresh Ink: May 2020 Edition

Fresh Ink is a monthly tally of new and forthcoming booksmainly advance review copies (aka “uncorrected proofs” and “galleys”)—I’ve received from publishers. Cover art and opening lines may change before the book is finally released. I should also mention that, in nearly every case, I haven’t had a chance to read these books, but they’re definitely going in the to-be-read pile.

Becoming Duchess Goldblatt
by Anonymous
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Jacket Copy:  Becoming Duchess Goldblatt is two stories: that of the reclusive real-life writer who created a fictional character out of loneliness and thin air, and that of the magical Duchess Goldblatt herself, a bright light in the darkness of social media. Fans around the world are drawn to Her Grace’s voice, her wit, her life-affirming love for all humanity, and the fun and friendship of the community that’s sprung up around her. @DuchessGoldblat (81 year-old literary icon, author of An Axe to Grind) brought people together in her name: in bookstores, museums, concerts, and coffee shops, and along the way, brought real friends home—foremost among them, Lyle Lovett. But who is the Duchess? In their own words: “The only way to be reliably sure that the hero gets the girl at the end of the story is to be both the hero and the girl yourself.”

Opening Lines:  I must have slept weird, folks. My backstory is killing me.

Blurbworthiness:  “After reading this unforgettable memoir, I figured out who Duchess Goldblatt is: all of us. Behind her brilliantly witty and uplifting message is a remarkable vulnerability and candor that reminds us that we are not alone in our struggles—and that we can, against all odds, get through them. As though casting a magic spell on her readers, she moves, inspires, and connects us through her unvarnished humanity. It was, for this therapist, a form of therapy I didn’t know I needed.” (Lori Gottlieb, author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone)

Why It’s In My Stack:  As a long-time follower/worshipper of The Duchess, I, like many of their royal subjects, am curious to discover what they look like behind the Twitter avatar.

Riding with the Ghost
by Justin Taylor
(Random House)

Jacket Copy:  When Justin Taylor was thirty, his father, Larry, drove to the top of the Nashville airport parking garage to take his own life. Thanks to the intervention of family members, he was not successful, but the incident would forever transform how Taylor thinks of his father, and how he thinks of himself as a son. Moving back and forth in time from that day, Riding with the Ghost captures the past’s power to shape, strengthen, and distort our visions of ourselves and one another. We see Larry as the middle child in a chilly Long Island family; as a beloved Little League coach who listens to kids with patience and curiosity; as an unemployed father struggling to keep his marriage together while battling long-term illness and depression. At the same time, Taylor explores how the work of confronting a family member’s story forces a reckoning with your own. We see Taylor as a teacher, modeling himself after his dad’s best qualities; as a caregiver, attempting to provide his father with emotional and financial support, but not always succeeding; as a new husband, with a dawning awareness of his own depressive tendencies; as a man, struggling to understand his relationship to his religion and himself. With raw intimacy, Riding with the Ghost lays bare the joys and burdens of loving a troubled family member. It’s a memoir about fathers and sons, teachers and students, faith and illness, and the pieces of our loved ones that we carry with us.

Opening Lines:  My father had decided that he would end his life by throwing himself from the top of the parking garage at the Nashville airport, which he later told me had seemed like the best combination of convenience—that is, he could get there easily, and unnoticed—and sufficiency—that is, he was pretty sure it was tall enough to do the job. I never asked him what other venues he considered and rejected before settling on this plan. He probably did not actually use the word “best.” It was Mother’s Day, 2013.

Blurbworthiness:  “Justin Taylor’s relentless, peripatetic, and tender search for reconciliation with his late troubled father blooms into a full-throated song of joy about his own life lived through music, teaching, travel, and literature. Riding with the Ghost is gorgeously layered and deeply felt.” (Lauren Groff, author of Florida)

Why It’s In My Stack: Well, Father’s Day is coming up....

A Small Crowd of Strangers
by Joanna Rose
(Forest Avenue Press)

Jacket Copy:  How does a librarian from New Jersey end up in a convenience store on Vancouver Island in the middle of the night, playing Bible Scrabble with a Korean physicist and a drunk priest? She gets married to the wrong man for starters—she didn’t know he was ‘that kind of Catholic’—and ends up in St. Cloud, Minnesota. She gets a job in a New Age bookstore, wanders toward Buddhism without realizing it, and acquires a dog. Things get complicated after that. Pattianne Anthony is less a thinker than a dreamer, and she finds out the hard way that she doesn’t want a husband, much less a baby, and that getting out of a marriage is a lot harder than getting into it, especially when the landscape of the west becomes the voice of reason. A Small Crowd of Strangers, Joanna Rose’s second novel, is part love story, part slightly sideways spiritual journey.

Opening Lines:  It was things like reading all of John Updike, and all of Elmore Leonard, and doing the crossword in the middle of the afternoon when she didn’t have to work, with the all-classical station pouring out the windows of her apartment over the dry cleaner’s. That’s what being thirty was about.

Blurbworthiness:  “As a fan of Joanna Rose’s groundbreaking novel, Little Miss Strange, I was eager to read the next, A Small Crowd of Strangers. Lucky readers—this novel, too, is buoyant, tender, and it’s so easy to invest in her lively characters and the gorgeously described landscape. At the center of the novel is Pattianne Anthony, a quirky reference librarian who is smart and witty, but who also tends to make major life choices on a whim. One of those is to marry a charming schoolteacher, Michael Bryn, and move from her childhood home in New Jersey to St. Cloud, Minnesota. It’s Pattianne’s discovery of self that most captivates through these pages—her budding realization that she has let life lead her instead of her leading life. As Pattianne ventures out, we witness her profound discoveries about love, family, faith, and the abiding strength of an eclectic community, and in this way Rose’s novel becomes sweetly intimate, a joy to read.”  (Debra Gwartney, author of I Am a Stranger Here Myself)

Why It’s In My Stack:  I thoroughly enjoyed the opening paragraphs which had enough kinetic energy to pull me right into the rushing current of words. I want to read more and more and more.

Barcelona Days
by Daniel Riley
(Little, Brown)

Jacket Copy:  Whitney and Will are a perfect couple by all appearances, their relationship rock-solid, and their engagement soon to be announced. Before their impending nuptials, however, Whitney suggests a lighthearted experiment: why not give each other three romantic “free passes” before getting married? Three opportunities to imagine other lives before returning with new appreciation for each other. On what’s meant to be the last night of a romantic Barcelona vacation, they agree to regale one another with details of these harmless trysts. They grin and bear it, and fall asleep feeling mostly satisfied, and relieved to be firmly together again. But then a volcano erupts overnight, spewing a cloud of ash across Europe and grounding all flights indefinitely. Trapped in Barcelona, their paths intertwine with a star basketball player, his future dashed by a crippling injury, and a foreign exchange student with a double life, about to return home and face reality. Whitney and Will flirt, provoke, dance, and drink. Over the next three days, they will use and be used by their new friends, once again testing the boundaries of their relationship—but this time, can it survive?

Opening Lines: “To you and me,” Will said, lifting his wine, a local something, butcher red. The label said it was from Penedes, just down the coast, and it featured a bull with roses where its horns should be.
       “To 1-2-3,” Witney said, lifting her glass to match, and they clinked a heavy clink, and it rang out around the dining room like a good idea.

Blurbworthiness:  “From beginning to end, the reader walks with Whitney and Will along the precipice marking an edge they may or may not have crossed. With dry humor and involving dialogue, Riley steps boldly into territory other authors have only tentatively approached.” (Enobong Tommelleo)

Why It’s In My Stack:  My first impression (based on the barest of skims through its opening pages) is that Barcelona Days gives off a Sheltering Sky vibe; this summer feels like a good time to immerse myself in literary affairs.

Sunday Sentence: I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott

Simply put, the best sentence(s)* I’ve read this past week, presented out of context and without** commentary.

If you met him, you would want to marry him. But you can’t, because I already did.

*     *     *

When I am packing a suitcase and I’ve crammed every last rectangle of folded clothing into the bag and added shoes, makeup, a just-in-case-it’s-cold cardigan and a panicked last-minute backup outfit or two, and I’m mashing everything down as hard as I can, and I go from zero to psycho in a second because I can’t get the bag zipped, and I’m stomping on the bag and hammering at it with my fists, he calmly opens it, rearranges a few things, and zips it.

I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott

*I chose three. Sue me.

**I am breaking the rules this week, but I can’t resist commenting on how rich with humor both of these selections are: the first with a sort of snap-snap feel to it, and the second has an admirable momentum that should be used as an example of How to Write a Long Tightly-Coiled Sentence in writing classrooms. I mean, tear it apart and count the syllables and breath-beats to marvel at how MLP turns the first part of the sentence into luggage itself, full of details and hyphenated adjectives and verbs like crammed and mashing and stomped and then see how her husband comes in and acts as the zipper, closing the sentence with neat efficiency. Zzzzzip! Now that’s how you sentence, people!