Nightmare Fuel

“If you’re there,” I prayed, “grant my wish. Make it possible for me to live one life, not two. Make me whole.”

We ascended the path on the cliff together, my wife and I. “She’s supposed to be right here,” Nora said crossly, as if I were somehow to blame for this situation, which I wasn’t. I didn’t know the first thing about it.

“You’re going to have to explain about this hag again,” I said. “It’s — a rock, or something?”

Nora seemed, just for a moment, disappointed in my cluelessness. “She’s a key figure. The Cailleach Beara!”

“And she’s like — the Professor McGonagall of West Cork?”

She smiled patiently. “You’re an eejit, Owen.”

I nodded. “Yeah,” I agreed.

Nora…


“Atticus, are you a racist?”

News item: The producers of the proposed Broadway adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” are being sued by the Harper Lee estate. A chief dispute is the updated portrayal of Atticus Finch, who in the first act is presented as a confused, elderly racist.

Scene 1:

Atticus, Scout, and Jem are sitting on the front porch. Atticus wears a hat that says, “Make Maycomb Great Again.”

Scout looks at her father. “Atticus, are you a racist?”

Atticus looks concerned. He takes his glasses off and cleans them with a handkerchief. “I am the least racist person you…


On acknowledging privilege; on shame and guilt; on finding joy. How black and white people can learn to talk to each other.

“Some people live to see other people fail, and that’s sad,” the young man wrote. “Find some joy, folks.”

He is DeRay McKesson, civil rights activist, a force in the Black Lives Matter movement, and the founder of Campaign Zero, an initiative to end police violence.

“That’s painfully true,” the older woman tweeted in response. “I guess joy just takes more vulnerability than cruelty.”

She’s Brene Brown, research professor at the University of Houston, a social worker and…


That we would still be fighting the Civil War over 150 years after that surrender is either a great shock, or entirely predictable, depending on whom you ask.

Boothbay Harbor, Maine

The Burnt Island Light stands at the entrance to Boothbay Harbor. Built in 1821, it’s the second oldest lighthouse in Maine, and it’s one of the things that makes this town postcard pretty — along with its rocky shores and hushed coves. At this time of year, the streets are full of tourists and “summerpeople,” folks who’ve travelled here from around the country to enjoy — as our state bumper stickers say — “the way life should be.”

On Wednesday morning, fliers for the Ku Klux Klan appeared in town. This was the day after the President…


“The first time I met my son, DJ, he grabbed me by the pointer finger on my right hand, took me to the couch, and started banging his head against my head — not hard, but not soft either. . . . We performed this bighorn ritual for twenty or thirty minutes. Years later, when he was literate, he explained, ‘Dad, I was trying to say hello.’”

Ralph James Savarese is the author of Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption. He lives in Grinnell, Iowa, where he is associate professor of English at Grinnell College.


“We break free, but just because we leave our parents doesn’t mean they leave us.”

Augusten Burroughs is the author of, among other works, Running with Scissors, a memoir about his relationship with his mother, and A Wolf at the Table, about his father. Recently, we sat on a rooftop on Eighty-first and Columbus in New York City, talking about parents and insanity. Just across the street, fifteen floors below us, was the sphere of the Hayden Planetarium, surrounded by moons and planets. As we talked, the temperature rose into the nineties. …


Chapter 1

LONG BLACK VEIL is a literary thriller, my first fiction for adults in 20 years, my first under this byline, and my first novel of suspense ever. Here’s how it starts.

  1. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania • August, 1980

This was a long time ago, before my first death, and none of us now are the people we were then. Instead we are ghosts: two of us dead, a third unrecognizable, a fourth suspected of murder. It would be easy enough at this hour to have contempt for those young selves, to focus instead on how much cleverer we have become…


Another week, another clever “think piece” by someone who feels it does the world a real service to explain why transgender people aren’t who they say they are; or aren’t entitled to the same fundamental kindness and decency you’d accord any other soul; or who have yet another brand new crazy-ass theory about why their own fears and ignorance about us can be forgiven.

This week sees a major essay in a major publication by a woman who — call her a TERF or not, I don’ t care — has it out for me, and people like me. A…


Remembering a man who vanished without a trace: my brother, although I never met him

It was 33 years ago this New Year’s Eve that Sam Todd left a party in Soho to get some air. He would not be seen again.

Sam Todd was a divinity student at Yale, a young man, like many, “giddy with their own futures.” On New Year’s Eve, 1983–4, he attended a party at 271 Mulberry Street with a group of recent graduates from Vassar. He was 24. One of his friends, Heather Dune Macadam, described Todd that night, as he “twirled like a young colt, laughing and eating up the energy of the night until he was so…


Why did they come to our door, year after year — bearing broken hearts, Jack Daniels, and broken toy soldiers? Was it me?

BELGRADE LAKES, Maine.

Of all the unexpected visitors my family received over the holidays, there was probably no soul more unlikely than Vietnam Santa.

Forty years ago, my parents and sister had gone out one night just before Christmas, leaving me alone. I was 16, and I’d managed to make some unfortunate decisions, winding up goofy on a cocktail I’d invented that contained equal measures of Virginia Gentleman bourbon and orange Hi-C.

Also, I had invited over a girl I barely knew, who’d arrived intending to make out with me, but who had instead passed out in a guest room…

Jenny Boylan

Anna Quindlen Writer in Residence at Barnard College of Columbia University; New York Times Contributing Opinion Writer; National Co-chair, GLAAD.

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