OTHER WORK

SHORT STORIES

"My Thoughts on Pâté"
Agni
Madame Martens—Catherine—was addicted to Valium. Sometimes she and I would have long conversations during which only she would talk, and then only infrequently, as if through a cloud that absorbed most of her words before they left her mouth.
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"Toast"
Michigan Quarterly Review | Distinguished Story, Best American Short Stories 2014
It’s strange that even a very strong and deep memory can, upon close scrutiny, turn out to be not much more than a feeling, a haunting one perhaps, but only a feeling.
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"Why Dim Sum Makes Me Feel Tender"
Seneca Review | Chinese translation in Writer Magazine
Drunk as he might be (and I believe he sometimes achieved great heights of drunkenness), this boy always managed to maintain a reserve of mystery, even a quality of dignity, which is why I liked him so much and why he was able to fit inside a beer bottle. 
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"Famous Cake"
Post Road
His sister took a trip to Tibet and brought back a sheer white scrap of fabric. She said this was a prayer scarf and you could put a wish on it. Miranda taped it to the due date on the calendar. 
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"The Cut"
Crazyhorse
She picked through the hooks and lures and tangled bits of line until she found a nice old pocketknife, vaguely familiar. "What's it for?" she asked, holding the knife between herself and the young man, though slightly closer to herself.
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PERSONAL ESSAYS & MEMOIR

"'Gooseberries' and Red Currants"
Tin House
She wasn’t jolly or sweet or cozy the way grandmothers are supposed to be. Instead, she told Stephanie and me dirty jokes and serious, unhappy, decidedly adult stories—stories that made me worry about things, about existence in general.
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"How to Buy Peaches'
Tin House | Notable Essay, Best American Essays 2010
Marco Ferreri's 1972 movie, La Grande Bouffe, is a high-brow gross-out, an existentialist porn flick—elegant, funny, disturbing—that tells the story of four successful, professional, middle-aged men who decide to eat themselves to death.
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"I Wish I Could Write Like Russell Edson"
Brevity
I sometimes think it takes every ounce of strength I own just to be okay, just to be adequate, to bake a few cookies, occasionally, for my children, and to comb the lichen from my husband’s beard.
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"Questionnaire for My Grandfather"
The Gettysburg Review | anthologized in YOU: Essays Devoted to the Second Person | Chinese translation in Yangtze River Series
Would you agree with the following assertions?
1. Despite your death and preceding decades–long absence, you have acted as a kind of puppet master, using my mother as a kind of puppet, for her entire life.
2. I was raised by a broken puppet of a woman.
3. I was raised (it logically follows) by you.

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"Knitting 101"
New World Writing
Knitting teaches us that all those linear constraints to which we humans are so well accustomed (birth-to-death trajectories, one-word-at-a-time linguistic progressions…) are configurable in decidedly non-linear ways, in ways that, with just a bit of patience, diligence, and a modicum of skill, might even keep you warm.
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"The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet: Excerpts from a Memoir"
Agni
Terror comes in two sizes, I think. There’s the big kind: gas attacks, earthquakes, a stranger with a gun. And the small: personal and rich with shame. It was the small kind of terror I felt whenever my mother threatened to “get out the scissors.” Something about that phrase, about the way she said the word scissors.
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"Last Cookies"
New World Writing
Weeks go by. Then months. Your father visits the funeral home, and still you don’t make the cookies. He helps your aunt pick out what clothes she’ll wear in her coffin, what music she wants played during the service. And still you don’t make the cookies.
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"The Ritual"
O: the Oprah Magazine
Maybe it's because socks are shaped like feet, echoing the growth of a child with particular clarity. Maybe it's because they're personal, intimate. Whatever the reason, even when they were threadbare and stretched and holey, I could not bring myself to throw out my children's too-small socks.
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"Inky"
The Maine Review
When strangers asked if she was friendly, we said no. She smelled bad. She once broke someone's finger. She shed like a fiend and farted fearsomely. And yet we loved her, my husband, my kids, and I, which is sort of curious, if you think about it—how love insists upon itself.
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"Five Photographs"
Ninth Letter | Special Mention, Pushcart Prize XXXIV
Even as a woman stepping lightly (I like to think) into middle age it's hard for me to keep track of who I am sometimes. This is especially true, not surprisingly, around my mother. Drinking helps.
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"Eight Photographs"
New Ohio Review | NOR Editors' Prize in Nonfiction
There seems a quiet stateliness to this scene, although I realize this is just the way time translates the glossy finish of old photos. Standing in my grandparents' driveway, between two taupe-colored sedans, my mother, in checked pants and a dark sleeveless turtleneck, holds a new-born me. My face is a pink blot, her arm a white bar.
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ESSAYS ON LITERATURE

"Ten Conversations about My Struggle"
Gettysburg Review
“His insistence on openness—or, to put it another way, personal freedom—is really an experimental confrontation with shame conducted on the ground of literature." I stop to take a picture on my phone: some puffy white berries dangling off a vine. "At least, that’s one way of looking at it.”
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"The Matter of Translation: Wislawa Szymborska's 'Conversation with a Rock'"
Gettysburg Review
By broadening the definition of sky to encompass infinity itself, Szymborska renders the word incapable of holding any real or absolute meaning. Or, rather, such broadening illuminates, in an unsettlingly neutral light, the fact that meaning is a purely human construct.
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"A Pickle of a Novel: Clarice Lispector's The Passion According to G.H."
Tin House
In her use of language to express her deepest, most serious and desperate doubts about language, Lispector has written a novel in which every word—like a mythical tail-eating snake—quietly consumes itself.
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"A Prayer for the Future of Everything: On Oe Kenzaburo"
Raritan Review
Oë is acutely aware of the failure of language ever truly to grasp (that is, fully account for) reality. Slowing down the transmission of meaning reminds us of how far the signal is from the signified. By exploiting the gap, Oë's style manages not only to express his ideas about language and consciousness but also to embody them.
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"On Valentin Papadin’s Teach Yourself to Be a Madman"
Tin House
They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but I do it all the time, and amidst all those unwanted and over-hyped rejects, the cover of Papadin's memoir snagged my attention the way certain people do: with a subtle soul wink.
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"Poe’s Death-Watches and the Architecture of Doubt"
New England Review  | reprinted in Poetry Criticism (v.198)
Waking from my dream of the child's birthday party, I thought I'd finally figured it out: Poe's work is about the idea that the structures we create in order to contain or organize reality—our architecture, for example—might someday turn on us. That is a scary thought!
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ESSAYS ON CRAFT

"Kim Adrian on What Our Nonfiction is Trying to Tell Us"
Literary Hub
Working in nonfiction was liberating because it helped me realize that there are countless ways to shape a piece of writing aside from plot. (An essay, for instance, can move according to the ideas it contains, the emotions it stirs, or the themes it wanders through.)
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"'Great Liberations: Writing Beyond the Academy" (with Anna Leahy)
Public Books
Essayists have traditionally been drawn to the small, the particular. Montaigne wrote about thumbs, for instance, Borges about toenails.
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