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isolation

<i>Tiger King</i>. Directed by Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin. Netflix, 2020. 8 episodes

The Art of Watching

Early in January, a few days into the New Year, I sat with four students on the ninth floor of a Twenty-Third Street Manhattan building. I have two dominant memories of our week together: The first is of the forbearance with which they withstood my raging head cold; the places they found to look while I filled tissue after tissue, stuffing various pills, sprays, and lozenges into my face, inflicting on them a six-day wrath that should have been mine alone. Grumpy and overmedicated, midweek I told a colleague, because she asked, that I felt like a jungle cat was sitting on my face.

Degrees of  Loneliness

“No man is an island, entire of itself.” So observed John Donne, memorably, in 1624, a year before bubonic plague beset London, killing some forty thousand people. No man is an island—unless isolated, a cognate word whose currency manifests in the term self-isolation, the act of removing oneself from public life until, in this instance, the current plague, a virulent strain of coronavirus, has lifted.

<i>Luster</i>. By Raven Leilani. FSG, 2020. 240p. HB, $26

Sex in the City

We are in the midst of a publishing renaissance of novels about blackness; of literary novels with black protagonists; of novels about race and of novels published by black authors. This wave of publications follows a similar black-literature boom in [...]

Visitation

My mother is alive and funny
in the house above the marsh.

I think she does not miss my father much
as he is still alive, though elsewhere.

My Monster

This hill, even if a small one, this hill with us and the dog the same dog 
forever moving shadow-like down it, to where the hill disappears…For 

Illustration by Julien Pacaud

Long Way Home

The Circumnavigations of Henk De Velde

When I first wrote the Dutchman, ten years ago, he was sailing around the world alone for the sixth and final time. His plan, he said, was to keep on sailing, continuing this last circumnavigation until the day he died, or until he found some unknown place “behind the horizon.” At the time, Henk De Velde was somewhere in the Atlantic, slightly closer to South America than any other continent, but not very close to anywhere at all.

Love Song for the Mother of No Children

You followed Oleta Esteban every time you saw her. At the grocery store she was buying frozen peas, milk and bread, chicken broth, two bananas. Is this what women ate after they lost their children? Oleta looked as if she scavenged crumbs left for birds, seeds scattered. Brittle, she was, an old child, thin bones beneath yellow skin, suddenly, terribly visible.

You remembered her in a red dress and white sandals, Oleta before Dorrie and Elia died, arms bare, toenails painted. She dropped her sandals in the dark grass to dance with her children barefoot.