Emerging from the Tomb Intact

There’s a moment in Anna Karenina in which a frustrated Anna turns to her husband. She had been very sick, but she’s better now. During her sickness, over what they thought was her deathbed, her lover and her husband reached out and clasped hands. The urgency of her illness brought about reconciliation. Karenin, the wronged husband, let go of his moral outrage and forgave both Vronsky and Anna.

Tears ensued. Grace shone forth. All felt the bliss.

At the moment I’m thinking of, Anna, back from the brink of death is annoyed over the very thing she so longed for. Her husband has forgiven her. But, as she says, “I didn’t die and now I know I have to live with your forgiveness!”

He is stunned and so are we. For in that moment comes such truth. [Read more...]

The Pope, My Husband, and Me

“He blessed us.”

Craig’s eyes twinkle, his mouth twitches. I recognize the man I fell for, the man whose face still stuns me with love. He’s a gentle tease, and for the past few weeks, these three words have formed a refrain: He blessed us.

The former pope, that is—Benedict XVI, whose general audience at St. Peter’s Square we attended back in October 2011 and who, after his homily on the Twenty-third Psalm, offered a blessing to “the young people, the sick, and the newlyweds.”

“The newlyweds, Craig and Lindsey,” my husband insists.

I smile. “Right. Craig and Lindsey and thousands of other people there that morning.”

“Us,” my husband insists. “Craig and Lindsey, of San Francisco.” [Read more...]

Will a Migraine Make Me Holy?

In her collection The White Album, published in 1979, Joan Didion has an essay called “In Bed.” The essay is about migraine headaches, which Didion suffers “three, four, sometimes five times a month.”

Her migraines are much, much worse than mine, but every few weeks, when my first conscious moment involves the awareness of a headache, I think of her.

I don’t take the powerful drugs she does—for me, over-the-counter Excedrin does the job—and I don’t suffer the aura. I don’t run through red lights or give the appearance of being drunk.

But I do give in. [Read more...]

Stories that Clamor for Attention

A few weeks ago, early planning started for this summer’s Fiction Intensive at UC Berkeley Extension, a week-long fiction program with workshops and craft talks, readings and lectures.

I’ll be giving a talk: What Is Fiction? Yes, it’s a question both daunting and exhausted. Nothing I can say here that’s particularly new. And I’m wary of definitions that suggest fiction is any one thing. Escapism? Moral duty? Truer than truth? Totally amoral? A pack of lies? All of the above.

But the more I keep thinking about it, the more excited I get. Examples tumble out like toys from a cupboard, begging my attention—and they surprise me. I’ve taught fiction long enough to have the anthologized standards at the ready.

You know, those classics with clear, dramatized change manifested in action or image: “Barn Burning,” “Araby,” “Roman Fever,” and, for a more contemporary example, a terrific Dagoberto Gilb story called “Uncle Rock.” Great examples, all. But the stories clamoring for my attention right now fall into another category. [Read more...]

Road Rage and Repentance

Driving other day, down a busy city street, one which I drive once, twice, sometimes three times a day—scanning a block or two ahead for double-parkers, changing lanes to dodge left-hand-turners and get away from slow-pokes—I had an epiphany. A manifestation. A showing. It wasn’t pretty.

An SUV rode on my tail. I called the SUV by name—that is, by a certain seven-letter anatomical term, even as I felt the pleasure of making it through the a signal turned yellow while watching the SUV get stopped by the red. Gotcha!

I actually said it aloud. And then, not even a block later, the SUV zipped past me on the left. Didn’t the driver see the double-parked UPS truck ahead? Guess not, but I did. And I’d be damned if I was going to let the SUV sneak back over at the last minute, the way more and more drivers do these days.

What is it about San Francisco? In my early driving days, some thirty years ago, drivers waited until it was their turn; vehicles filed in order—left, right, left, right, from two lanes into one; cars pulled over for sirens. No more. Is the dot-com boom to blame? Skyrocketing housing prices? Too many cars? [Read more...]


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