The Baby, the Book, and the Bathwater
Motherhood and ambition in the Paris Review
Around halfway through writing my novel, I read a book that nearly derailed me. As any writer knows, reading while writing is always a risky pursuit. Cadences are easily stolen; we find ourselves singing a lullaby we don’t remember being sung to us. But there’s something worse than a book that turns us into magpies and mimics: one that squelches our very desire to write.
On Not Watching Television
Immigration, inheritance, iconoclasm, and love in Tablet
An essay is, in part, a plea for shared enthusiasms (I think this, do you think it, too? No way! We have so much in common!) which is why I’m nervous to write about a childhood spent not watching TV, and I feel I should address the anxiety that it brings up in people. I assure you that I wasn’t doing anything better. I was usually bored. I listened to records, then tapes, then CDs. I called in to radio shows. I melted crayons against the light bulb over my desk and watched the colors drip onto my homework. I don’t believe this is in any way morally superior to TV. There are many ways to wait for time to pass, and most of them are not very enjoyable.
What Comes After Idealism?
Activism and futility; writing and failure; and how we carry on together in the Paris Review
A strange thing happened to me during this time of failure. I’d begun the book furious about the end of idealism, but as the years passed, I began to understand that when idealism ends, well, that’s when things get interesting. After all, you don’t need to simply desist when disillusioned. No, you can show up for work anyway, not with earnestness or sentimentality (my grandmother would shudder at that) but with a buoyant sense of the absurd. It’s absurd to write another draft of a book that isn’t working. It’s absurd to protest war after war after war. It’s absurd to call our congressional representatives each morning to register our horror at yet another inhumane action of the Trump administration. But there’s beauty in this absurdity—and plenty of humor too.
Did Camp Change Me? It Made Me A Liar, Which Is To Say A Novelist
Myths, snakes, and summer camp in Lithub
What I mean is this: There’s a reason some of us long for camp, years after we’ve gone. I’m not sure it’s only because of the carefulness of its myth, its watertight wonder, its true Arcadian promise. Maybe we long as well for the carelessness of the myth of camp. The way it shows its construction. The way we can walk right into it.
How Jane Fonda Helped Me Briefly Forget the World Is A Nightmare
Apocalyptic fears and aerobics in Buzzfeed
I realized then that I had nothing in common with these girls. They thought about sex. I thought about death. I barely spoke to anyone for the first week, although I was a person who liked to talk, who was known in my family as talking perhaps too much. The counselors called my parents to say that they’d never seen someone so stricken with homesickness.
The Wait is Over
Loneliness and the Dawning of the Internet in Lenny Letter
The place I’ve lived that I remember most wistfully, with the most painful pull of nostalgia, is a place where I was always waiting. For the three years I lived there, I waited, not only for the large questions to be answered — who I would become and who I would love, (because I was young then and knew little) — but also for my smallest desires to be satisfied. I waited all week for my Sunday long-distance call to my mother. I waited three months for Thai spring rolls, first identifying a person who might be willing to drive me the two hours to the nearest Thai restaurant (I didn’t have a car), then befriending him, and finally suggesting the trip.
How to Stop a Tsunami in Three Easy Steps
Magical thinking and natural disasters in The Last Word on Nothing
I grew up in Santa Monica in the 1970s and 80s under blue sky and under the threat of what we referred to only as The Big One, the inevitable mawing of the San Andreas Fault. I don’t remember when I learned that I lived on a faultline, or that the ocean, which was a mile and a half from my bedroom, would rear up and swallow anyone on its shore. I only remember always having knowledge of the earthquake. I only remember trying to stop it.
Gut Instincts: Dispatches from the Wide Open Space Between Sickness and Health
Bestselling Kindle Single about gluten faddism, medical uncertainty, and celiac disease. I’ve also written about celiac disease in Slate, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times.
Here’s what might happen when you find yourself living at the limits of medical knowledge, when you have a chronic disease that is only barely understood: You might stop sleeping. You might, while lying awake, long for your mother to come and allay your terror. You might Google your symptoms through the dark night. You might feel as if you are falling, careening downward, dizzily, and nobody is there to catch you.
And then, someone might reach out to catch you. It might be an acupuncturist, a chiropractor, a somatic healer, a nutritionist; a polite practitioner from the alternative health community might be waiting with outstretched arms and a protocol for you to follow. For me, that someone was Diane, my pixie savior.
Desire and Other Isms in AGNI was a distinguished story in Best American Stories, 2016
I drive Charlotte to the playgroup, which is held in a dance studio in a strip mall, remove my shoes and hers, and prepare to disappear. I am just one more with diaper bag and snacks and jeans and brown hair, unshod, concerned. Noreen, the facilitator, a slight woman with an apologetic smile (sorry your kid is all messed up!), tells us to find a comfy spot. On the wooden floor all the other mothers are greeting each other. I know nobody and feel conspicuously alone as I’ve felt since Charlotte was born. Oh to be the first mother, with the first baby. To be Eve, first to the mom’s group.
The Most Moved Mover is in Five Points, Winter 2017
At the coffee shop in my town, and there’s only one, Chance is telling us about radioactive cesium found in the tissue of bluefin tuna. Chance’s real name is Lenny Bower and the coffee shop’s name is Moonrise, painted inside with an eponymous mural, a white orb emerging from behind a mountain. This is a mountain town, so the mural is redundant. No matter where on the sidewalk we stand we can see Mt. Escadom with its wide skirt of mesas, all of it, this time of year, white and black as Ansel Adams wanted it to be. The coal miners and ranchers of our town drink their coffee at the diner called The Diner, and the hippies drink it at Moonrise, but we’re all here for the view, to stand with such distance around us and then, boom, the mountain. The difference between our two factions, if I can generalize beyond the obvious socio-economic, is that the ranchers live side by side with their families and the hippies have moved here to be as far as possible from theirs.