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Memoir

Notes on a Crisis

1. the surgery In the summer of 2015, on a deserted road in northern Iraq, I took a wrong turn. The turn led me in the direction of Mosul, which…

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Love and Acid

It’s forest fire season in Oregon. Yellow smoke fills the valley. I can’t see the mountains, can’t see across the street. My neighbor says, Don’t worry, the fire’s still thirty…

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What it Means to Be Alive

My father 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…

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Nightmares at 20,000 Feet

About six years ago, in Iowa, after taking off in a puddle ­jumper during a tornado, I developed a sudden and debilitating fear of flying. I was seated across the…

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We Were So Happy Then

Coming home in the mid-Nineties to the new South Africa—new laws, new rules, new hope—felt not much different from coming home to the old one. De facto integration had been…

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Orphan Bachelors

When the PBS documentary on the Chinese Exclusion Act aired, I needed to watch it alone. All day I’d been clearing out my late father’s basement in San Francisco. From…

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Long Shot

Ihave had many names, but as a sniper I went by Azad, which means “free” or “freedom” in Kurdish. I had been fighting for sixteen months in Kurdish territory in…

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They Dance Cheek to Cheek

They look so young, and they’re holding each other close. My mother and father, she in a black, sleeveless dress and pearls, he in a single-breasted suit and cuff links.…

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Two Years in Auschwitz

Noah Klieger sits in a small café in Tel Baruch, a modern quarter in the northeast of Tel Aviv. It is May 2017. He comes here nearly every day for…

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Exile

If you know anything about me, John Hockenberry, it is probably that I am a familiar voice from public radio. You likely know that I use a wheelchair because of…

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The Fountain Pen

From the journal I did not keep Read More

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Looking for Calley

In the fall of 1969, I was a freelance journalist working out of a small, cheap office I had rented on the eighth floor of the National Press Building in…

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Nothing But

The truth—that thing I thought I was telling.—John Ashbery To start with the facts: the chapter in my book White Sands called “Pilgrimage” is about a visit to the house…

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The Human Factor

After nearly forty years of engaging with political journalism—writing investigative reports, opinion columns, and straight news, as well as publishing other people’s work—I confess that I’m discouraged. Catastrophic events such…

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All the Last Wars

There were no civilian cars on the streets of Mosul, Iraq, last December, when the veteran war photographer Don McCullin and I hitched a ride in an Iraqi Army pickup.…

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Eat, Memory

The last time I ate real food, actually chewed and swallowed, was six years ago. During those final meals, I ordered a pastrami sandwich, a pork-belly bun, and vegetable soup.…

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My Perfect Season

In the second grade, when I was seven, I joined a baseball team. This was in the spring of 1960, year fifteen, give or take, of the American ascendancy. I…

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The Old Man

In America, being serious is often seen as being aloof, my old man said, once, years ago, when he was talking about his father, my Grandpa Means, who was quiet…

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Isn’t It Romantic?

Two years ago, in the last days of a flatlining relationship, my boyfriend, Bobby, and I were crashing with a pal of his in Altamonte Springs, Florida. Bobby and Max…

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Avian Voices

I made a deal with the deer: I plant double, you take your half, I take my half. They broke the deal before the ink was dry. Shoots of corn…

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Surviving a Failed Pregnancy

For eight weeks, the pregnancy seemed normal. I was thirty-six, and thus supposedly at a higher risk for everything, but I’d had no spotting, no unusual pain. I learned that…

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In Search of a Stolen Fiddle

The fiddle came from a recluse. In 1988, Brian Skarstad, a violin maker in Pleasantville, New York, received a tip from a friend in New Orleans. A woman in the…

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Honky, Napoleon, and the Empress Wu

The dog was my fault. I knew perfectly well that a Pekingese would be wrong in a household of ridgebacks and Irish setters. I also knew that one didn’t buy…

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Christmas in Prison

Right after Thanksgiving, red and green decorations start popping up all over the place. The ubiquitous security windows with their diamond-pattern wire reinforcements are suddenly framed in sparkly silver tinsel.…

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The Seductive Catastrophe

Can foul weather 35,000 feet in the air bear clues to a calamity below — to the great killing that started almost a century earlier? I expected no such thing…

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The Oa

Sour paste in the mouth, paper-cut eyes, a hint of burnt sugar in the nose of my mind, and anxiety no longer postponed by last night’s golden sips. This is…

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Loving Las Vegas

I pity people who’ve never been to Vegas. Who dismiss the city without setting foot on its carpeted sidewalks. I recognized myself in the town the first time I laid…

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Killing Deer

Most days that summer, when my brothers and I campaigned for my father in Wyoming, started out early. We drove long distances to dusty little towns, handing out flyers, asking…

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May 2020