“The Gift Shop of the Dead”: I Visit the Museum of Crime and Punishment

for AmSpec: For the past twelve years I’ve volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center serving mainly low-income women in the District of Columbia, and I’ve noticed something about how our clients talk: Nobody ever says “prison.” Boyfriends, husbands, fathers, sons were never “locked up,” “in jail,” or “serving time”; they were always “incarcerated.” There is an unexpected poignancy to the bureaucratic term—a lacy Latinate word suffused with so much pain, as if standardization and abstraction coul … [Read more...]

For Want of a Nail: I Watch “Boogie Nights”

Over the counter with a shotgun--Pretty soon, everybody's got one.I'm in a fever when I'm beside her, desire...--U2Now I have already mentioned that there was a disturbance in my heart, a voice that spoke there and said, I want, I want, I want! It happened every afternoon, and when I tried to suppress it it got even stronger. It only said one thing, I want, I want!And I would ask, "What do you want?"But this was all it would ever tell me. It never said a thing except I … [Read more...]

Hard Man Humble: I review “Dom Hemingway”

for AmSpec: Richard Shepard's Dom Hemingway, starring Jude Law as an aging felon and Richard E. Grant (yes) as his best friend, is a bizarre genre hybrid of gangster entertainment and family tearjerker. At first we seem to be solidly in lads'-night-out funland: splashy neon colors, head-butting and gut-punching, terrific music, wenching and boozing and unauthorized smoking. There are rivers of obscenity and wordy, actory speeches. (All of these are given to Law's titular Dom, which is a shame, … [Read more...]

From Frederick Exley, “A Fan’s Notes”

Man, this book is hard to excerpt: Yet my father had more refined dreams. Like most athletes he lived amidst the large deeds and ephemeral glories of the past, recalling a time when it must have seemed to him he had been more Elevated, and this continual and melancholy look into the past had drawn his brows together into a knot, giving him a look of unmistakable hostility. Moreover, in an attempt to more vividly re-create that past, my father drank--I was about to say too much, which would not … [Read more...]


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