The Lost Language of a Shared Reality

We live in a world increasingly divided by diametrically opposing accounts of civic realities, paired narratives that don’t just conflict, but wholly contradict each other, each claiming credibility and often achieving it within its target faction. The examples are legion, but take just three: the “Trump Won” narrative versus the narrative of the “Big Lie”; … Continue reading The Lost Language of a Shared Reality

The Shame of It All

What we used to call shame is being shamed out of existence. We are not supposed to feel it, and we are certainly not supposed to inflict it. But what else do we lose when we dispense with a sense of shame? To define the word is to understand why the current culture reviles it. … Continue reading The Shame of It All

Ducks, Snakes, and Toilet Seats: Redistricting the Gerrymenagerie

In my home state of Ohio, the legislature has until the end of September to agree on a new Congressional district map, or the process gets punted to nominally bi-partisan but Republican-dominated commission. Public hearings on the redistricting process are being held here and in other state capitals, and it's a good time to revisit … Continue reading Ducks, Snakes, and Toilet Seats: Redistricting the Gerrymenagerie

On Talking My Clothes Off in Public

Wallace Stegner, one of the great writers and teachers of writing of the second half of the last century, had this to say about the experience of having one’s writing published: The man who publishes a book is a man with a sending set but no receiver, broadcasting messages into space without ever knowing whether … Continue reading On Talking My Clothes Off in Public


Someone should start a blog or a podcast about bookpaths. Maybe I will. It wouldn’t be just about books themselves, their stories or their style, but about how certain books find their way to us and through us to others, and often circle back to us repeatedly over the course of our lives. I had … Continue reading Bookpaths

On Legislating Morality

Back in the Sixties, segregationists opposed to the impending Civil Rights Act of 1964 were fond of saying “you can’t legislate morality.” By which they meant that morality is a bottom-up enterprise, an ultimately spiritual, individualistic goal, and not one that can be imposed from the top down. All of which was then and is … Continue reading On Legislating Morality

Joni Mitchell, “Blue,” and Me

Joni Mitchell's hugely influential album "Blue" turned 50 last week, and fitting tribute was paid in a compendium of artists' appreciations in the New York Times, which includes some wonderful photographs like the one here. By way of honoring the anniversary of "Blue," my own tribute to Joni, first posted here in 2017, is reproduced … Continue reading Joni Mitchell, “Blue,” and Me

A Memory of Oysters

Proust had his madeleines. For my daughter, it’s oysters. We’d gathered our portion of our extended family — her and her husband and two little boys, my wife and me — on an island in Florida for a post-pandemic reunion, and were out to dinner. With our usual alacrity we agreed we needed a dozen … Continue reading A Memory of Oysters

The Last Days of Roe v. Wade

[Originally posted in June, 2019, and re-posted in light of the Supreme Court's granting review earlier this month in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which challenges the constitutionality of a Mississippi law effectively barring abortions after the fifteenth week of pregnancy.] Of the many ramifications of the election of Donald Trump, perhaps … Continue reading The Last Days of Roe v. Wade

Attack of the Duck District: Gerrymandering America

Congressional redistricting is one of those seemingly boring, deeply political processes that happens infrequently enough that we can be forgiven for ignoring it. It’s easy to see that how a congressional district is defined geographically will influence who wins elections in it, and that the manipulation of district boundaries is potentially anti-democratic. But when we … Continue reading Attack of the Duck District: Gerrymandering America