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Roundtable discussions of contemporary issues by the academics, writers, and thinkers who know them best.

The Grand Shattering

I never wanted to be a mother. I wanted to be a person. My identity crisis began at age three, when I wanted to be Popeye but realized that I…

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How to Be a Parent

These are tough times for parents. Not because child rearing has gotten any harder — it’s the same as it ever was — but because we are newly overrich in hand-wringing books…

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Hammer Island

Over the Fourth of July holiday in 1985, when I was seventeen years old, the film producer Morris Walls took me to Hammer Island. This is an island shaped like…

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I met her in a computer course my sophomore year at NYU, in 1981. It was the first day of class, and we were learning how to connect the terminals…

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My Mother’s Apartment

I took a class in ad writing at Pratt Institute when I was twenty-four. I lasted one day. One of my classmates came in on the first day with storyboards…

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At First Blush

It must have been sometime in the early fall, I was thirteen and had just moved to a new school. It must have been during science class, because I remember…

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Beeper World

The jellyfish life cycle, we were taught in school, involves a sessile state and a period of radiant flight. As polyps, jellyfish are rooted to the seafloor by fleshy stalks.…

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In 1755 the naturalist Stepan Krasheninnikov observed the Amanita muscaria mushroom’s effects on Russian soldiers in Siberia ingesting it for the first time. Claiming to have been seized by an…

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I am a sleep hunter. I track sleep through my house. I track it with a flashlight, and a bottle of pills, and two pillows, and a blanket, and a…

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Segmented Sleep

At first I dreaded having to investigate the history of sleep. Human slumber appeared impervious to time and place, stubbornly immune to the element of change animating most works of…

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Maximilian in the basement watched TV every night. I lay on a mattress on the floor in the apartment above him. He’d turn on the news around ten, fall asleep,…

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Whereas child bed wetters in sixteenth-century England had been directed for their malady to consume the testicles of a hedgehog or the windpipe of a cock, Enlightenment science, which rejected…

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Herbal Remedies

As a holistic nutritionist, I often work with people who have trouble sleeping. Some wake throughout the night; others jolt up at two a.m. and are unable to return to…

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If only sleep could be hoarded, accumulated, and traded; if only you could store it up for a rainy day or borrow it from friends or buy it on the…

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In the beginning, waiting for the baby to feed or stop feeding or burp or pass wind or yellow liquid shit, I postponed showers, phone calls, bowel movements. With the…

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Sleeping Together

She bowed and introduced herself as Yukiko and I knew it was her real name. I’d heard about the games played by the women in Tokyo’s hostess bars, that they…

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Big Brother at the OK Corral

A frontier fable of gun control and federal justice

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Who Needs Men?

Addressing the prospect of a matrilinear millennium

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The New Auteurs

How Hollywood publicists and ad execs get a turkey to fly

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You are twenty-one—exactly the same age I was when I had my one and only abortion, in London in 1938. This was way before anyone talked about the “right” to…

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August 2015

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