In House

"In House" is a weekly column featuring trawlings and reflections from our editors.

Saturday, August 1, 2015 - 6:00am

The gruesome Algerian War ended in 1962 with France walking away empty-handed from a territory that it had held for 130 years and considered not just a colony but an integral part of itself. The refusal of the pieds-noirs, the French colonists in Algeria, to concede meaningful rights to Arab citizens had made a peaceful independence impossible. The war, which featured ideological and tactical use of terrorism and torture on both sides, now a hallmark of intractable conflicts between the West and the Islamic world, brought down multiple French governments and the Fourth Republic before Charles de Gaulle accepted the inevitable.

Photo by author.

Monday, July 20, 2015 - 9:49am

Photo by author.

Lobster in the Rough is over. On a given summer day we can no longer pull off the highway on the Maine side of the border into the parking lot alongside dusty motorcycles, cars, and trucks, and take a seat at the bar or a table beside the bocce courts, inhale lobster rolls in the sun and have a drink among locals and interlopers. This was a place of tribute bands, ladies nights, and horseshoe pits. A place we visited any chance we had heading north or south, a place we returned to, the origin of memories and oft-repeated phrases overheard in the midst of one fantastic day or another. Its closing confirms or reaffirms that these sorts of things—the places we’ve come to depend on to be there as some small but increasingly significant facet of our lives—are going away.

Photo by author.

Monday, June 8, 2015 - 6:00am

Photo by author.

The week of Freddie Gray’s funeral, after the rallies and the marches, after the west side ignites and the camera crews descend upon our city, the helicopters swarm in two clusters—one to the east side and one to the west, a steady thunking all-day-and-night stutter. It’s the sound of tension hovering—a sound that makes people stop on the sidewalks and stare up at the sky.

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user AdmissionsQuest

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 8:54am

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user AdmissionsQuest

North of the Bible Belt and east of the Borscht Belt lies the Boarding School Belt. Of the 300 or so boarding schools in the U.S., 120 are in the Northeast, what might be called the Eden of American education. You know, that magical place where Andover and Exeter lead inexorably to Yale and Harvard.

Every fall, parents from all over the world descend on the region for the Tour de Boarding Schools, a grueling épreuve that can require three or more rounds before a match is found. Some foreign kids go alone in hired cars, which has a 19th-century sound, though it reflects a very 21st century phenomenon, Asian parents’ determination to get their children a rigorous, English-language education.

Monday, April 27, 2015 - 6:00am

We were on the small roads that sometimes turn gravel, sometimes dead end, when we found it. This was Vermont, about ten years ago, our first road trip together: a circuit of swimming holes, picnics, and stops for general store ice cream. We passed a series of “Take Back Vermont” signs. Somewhere along the way we came upon the man, who by all appearances seemed to be a Hare Krishna devotee, having a yard sale. It was here in the sunny warm greenness that we found THE PEOPLE’S CYCLOPEDIA OF UNIVERSAL KNOWLEDGE, WITH NUMEROUS APPENDIXES INVALUABLE FOR REFERENCE IN ALL DEPARTMENTS OF INDUSTRIAL LIFE. BROUGHT DOWN TO THE YEAR 1885.

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Tom Gill

Monday, March 16, 2015 - 9:10am

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Tom Gill

The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore stretches along the southern tip of Lake Michigan in sixteen separate pieces—jagged, sharp-cornered patches of land that float in an industrial landscape of rail lines, factories, and tiny dilapidated homes. The official National Parks visitors’ map includes not just the usual hiking trails and bike paths, but also two steel mills, an electric company, and the machine-gutted inlets that make up the port of Indiana.  

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Monday, February 16, 2015 - 3:08pm

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Around this table we’d gather, cover it with food. In the end: scattered drippings and crumbs, bottles and glasses emptied or abandoned. A cat scavenging the remains.

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user uusc4all

Monday, January 19, 2015 - 7:00am

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user uusc4all

1.   A few days before I moved to Baltimore this summer, I read an article about the city’s racial dynamics that had just been published by D. Watkins, a relatively young black writer who’d grown up in Baltimore. He described a city so racially segregated that it felt like two different places: one black, one white; one dangerous, one quaint; one introduced to him as a kid growing up in East Baltimore and one that he found later as a college student in North Baltimore, attending the predominately white private liberal arts college, where I had just accepted a job. Watkins painted a picture of two adjacent but separate worlds, a place where, he says, white people somehow manage to host literary events in a city that is more than 60% black without one black face in the crowd.

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Monday, December 22, 2014 - 12:50pm

I studied history in college, because it seemed somehow practical (don’t ask me why), and after three years of study I realized that I was a mediocre historian at best, that what I loved about researching the past were the stories, and so I took a creative writing class.

By sheer luck that class was taught by Kent Haruf. I had no idea of the tradition of great writers who had taught at Southern Illinois University (before Kent, Richard Russo and John Gardner held his faculty position), nor the already strong and growing writing program that was present in 1995 when I was there.

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Heather Katsoulis

Monday, December 8, 2014 - 7:00am

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Heather Katsoulis

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Even in the raw of winter, the succulent house will be hot and dry. The air in the palm house will be thick. These alternating glass houses of desert, forest, floral exotica—carnivorous pitcher plants and living stones—will be a refuge when New England is in February; one way to survive the cold.

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