The Black Tulip

“When awake, he thought only of the great black tulip; when asleep, he dreamed of nothing else.”

– Alexandre Dumas, The Black Tulip

Continue reading “The Black Tulip”

The Paper Menagerie

image“For me, all fiction is about prizing the logic of metaphors—which is the logic of narratives in general—over reality, which is irreducibly random and senseless.”

– Preface to The Paper Menagerie, by Ken Liu

Continue reading “The Paper Menagerie”

The Complete Orsinia

image“For any act done consciously may be defiant, may be independent, may change life utterly.

But one can only act thus if one knows there is no safety… One must wait outside. There is no hiding away from storm, waste, injustice, death.  There is no stopping, only a pretense, a mean, stupid pretense of being safe and letting time and evil pass by outside.  But we are all outside, Piera thought, and all defenseless.  There is no safe house but death.”

– from Malafrena, by Ursula K. Le Guin

Continue reading “The Complete Orsinia”

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly


“She fantasized about sitting in a nest, on an egg, about venturing into the fields with the rooster, and about following the ducks around.  She sighed.  It was pointless to dream.  It would never happen to her.”

– from The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, by Sun-mi Hwang, translated by Chi-Young Kim

Continue reading “The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly”


image“When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God’s breath hovering over the waters, God said, ‘Let there be light.’  And there was light.”

*welter and waste. The Hebrew thou wabohu occurs only here and in two later biblical texts that are clearly alluding to this one.  The second word of the pair looks like a nonce term coined to rhyme with the first and to reinforce it, an effect I have tried to approximate in English by alliteration.  Thou by itself means emptiness or futility, and in some contexts is associated with the trackless vacancy of the desert.

– Genesis 1:1, translated by Robert Alter, with commentary

Continue reading “Genesis”

The Story of the Lost Child


“Naples was the great European metropolis where faith in technology, in science, in economic development, in the kindness of nature, in history that leads of necessity to improvement, in democracy, was revealed, most clearly and far in advance, to be completely without foundation.  To be born in that city–I went so far as to write once, thinking not of myself but of Lila’s pessimism– is useful for only one thing: to have always known, almost instinctively, what today, with endless fine distinctions, everyone is beginning to claim: that the dream of unlimited progress is in reality a nightmare of savagery and death.”

  • The Story of the Lost Child, by Elena Ferrante, translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein

Continue reading “The Story of the Lost Child”

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

image“We had maintained the bond between our two stories, but by subtraction.  We had become for each other abstract entities, so that now I could invent her for myself both as an expert in computers and as a determined and implacable urban guerrilla, while she, in all likelihood, could see me both as the stereotype of the successful intellectual and as a cultured and well-off woman, all children, books, and highbrow conversation with an academic husband.  We both needed new depth, body, and yet we were distant and couldn’t give it to each other.”

-Elena Ferrante, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein

Continue reading “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay”

The Story of a New Name


“…I had made the whole journey mainly to show her what she had lost and what I had won.  But she had known from the moment I appeared, and now, risking tensions with her workmates, and fines, she was explaining to me that I had won nothing, that in the world there is nothing to win, that her life was full of varied and foolish adventures as much as mine, and that time simply slipped away without any meaning, and it was good just to see each other every so often to hear the mad sound of the brain of one echo in the mad sound of the brain of the other.”

The Story of a New Name, by Elena Ferrante

Continue reading “The Story of a New Name”

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child- Parts 1 and 2

DRACO (roar): My son is missing!

GINNY (an equal roar): So is mine!

He meets her look.  There’s real emotion in this room.

  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 and 2, by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

Continue reading “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child- Parts 1 and 2”

Blog at

Up ↑