June 23rd, 2014 | 6:00am


In February, 2014, eighteen seniors at Harbor School, a New York City public high school devoted to maritime careers on Governors Island, a historic military base turned national park, embarked on their first fiction writing efforts. For the next three months, their composition class, which Harbor School veteran teacher, Anna Lurie, and I taught was devoted to little else. On June 3, they read their work, first in the library, then after school in the Mess Hall to classmates, teachers, and family and distributed copies of The Ship Log, the magazine containing their stories. It was a big day for all of us.

Photo by Author
June 20th, 2014 | 6:00am

Photo by Author


One February morning, in between blizzards, I was leaning against a pillar on a subway platform, off the express train and waiting for the local, reading as usual, when a large drop of water landed on the book in my hands. The dirty bubble-swell of water—probably melted snow that had seeped from the pavement above into the underground in-between space where I stood—lingered in place yellowly for a moment before blooming into the bottom of page 88. If I let it keep seeping into the book, the paper would dry all wrinkly. If I wiped it off—with my hand? my jacket?—I’d only be spreading the wetness around. Irritation, the kind particular to very minor subway commute dramas, spread through me. The train arrived.


Photo by bwaydanny from Flickr Creative Commons
June 18th, 2014 | 6:00am

Photo by bwaydanny from Flickr Creative Commons

the stars are dust on gray carpet
and a man with a newspaper beret
makes a wish on a rat


this city
will one day be ruled by fish
silent as the tombstone of myths

reviewed by Rebecca Chace
June 16th, 2014 | 6:00am

Reading Blake Bailey’s memoir of his deranged brother, The Splendid Things We Planned, I kept thinking of a line from the epigraph Bailey quotes from Joe Gould’s Secret, Joseph Mitchell’s portrait of another troubled soul: “You can hate a person with all your heart and soul and still long for that person.” Bailey is the author of acclaimed literary biographies of John Cheever, Richard Yates, and Charles Jackson, all of whom wrote about the desperation behind mid-century American prosperity. This memoir shows that Bailey knows that terrain from personal experience. He opens with a heart-stopping scene of his young parents standing on the roof of a building at New York University in the early 1960s, holding their colicky, howling infant and trying to decide whether to jump together or toss the baby.

June 13th, 2014 | 6:00am

A trailblazer among American women at the turn of the century, Edith Wharton set out in the newly invented “motor-car” to explore the cities and countryside of France. As the Whartons embark on three separate journeys through the country in 1906 and 1907, accompanied first by Edith’s brother, Harry Jones, and then by Henry James, Edith is enamored by the freedom that this new form of transport has given her. With a keen eye for architecture and art, and the engrossing style that would later earn her a Pulitzer Prize in fiction, Wharton writes about places that she previously “yearned for from the windows of the train.”