Skip to main content


Blurring the Worlds of Fiction and Reality

October 14, 2013

The experience of reading literary diaries and letters can feel like an act of voyeurism. For the reader, the first few pages of revelations are guiltily tantalizing, as the inner life of a literary figure comes into focus and trips are made behind closed doors.

Glebov Junior

On Friday evening Glebov Senior took a turn for the worse: The ache started in his chest, spreading to his shoulder and then into his back. The ambulance was sent for. 

The Pink Suit

November 1963  There was that odd thing where he seemed to tilt to one side as if to whisper something to her, as lovers often do. Her head turned, the perfect hat still in place, and she, out of instinct, leaned in as if for a kiss.  His [...]

The Miniature Wife

The truth of the matter is: I have managed to make my wife very, very small. This was done unintentionally. This was an accident.  I work in miniaturization and it is, therefore, my job to make everything smaller. I have developed a number of [...]

Sessue Hayakawa, circa 1929. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Silent Dreams

Minter was pushed into theater by her mother, Charlotte Shelby, who could have been the model for the stereotype of the pushy stage parent. Shelby controlled her daughter’s career—lying about her daughter’s birth date to skirt age restrictions for actors; moving Minter, her sister, and grandmother from Louisiana first to New York and then to Hollywood; pushing her into one project after another and then collecting all the paychecks. 

The Composer

On the June night of Dolphy’s passing, the composer is in New York, holding forth about the size of space. An audience has gathered to hear him speak. Perhaps they recognize him, but more likely they only think they do. He is wide as a boxcar and not a little frightening, this giant of a man with a scowl across his lips. He ashes his cigar into an up-turned linen cap.

Fishermen [private]

We were fishermen.

Father first called us so after he whipped us sore for fishing at the Ala stream in the summer of May 1995. Earlier that year, the bank had transferred him from our hometown of Akure to Yola, a volatile and violence-prone city in the north of Nigeria. Father wouldn't move us with him so he lived apart and visited only once in two weeks, always coming at midnight on Fridays and disappearing at dawn on Sundays. Each time he returned, mother would detail how the house had fared in his absence—a breakdown of home needs and how they were met, of whom she had borrowed from, of our school reports, of the church, of street happenings (like the thief lynched by the mob, his horrifying scream as the fire engulfed him). She remembered everything, and we often joked that if she'd been schooled, she would have made a great historian.


"Can you believe it?" my brother said, talking more to the air than to me. "They're leaving us without a soccer field."

"What?" I said to myself and went up to the roof, my favorite place in the house for the last few months. It was 1979.


Favorite Son

Buck season opened—still does—on the Monday after Thanksgiving. In Bakerton it is a holiday of sorts. School was closed for the day, and I reported to Keener’s at 4 a.m. to serve eggs and sausages and countless cups of coffee to men in orange vests and jackets. Every table was full despite heavy competition from annual pancake breakfasts at the AmVets, the Elks, and the Moose.