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The Blog

Every Chapter is a Song

March 31, 2023

Stories with music woven into their fabric have carried many different labels over the years; my personal favorite is “musical fiction.” Still, it can be a struggle to describe stories like Believe in Me and Never Break the Chain in a way that truly captures how central music is to the lives of their characters. I’m perfectly happy to throw around terms like “musical fiction”—not to mention the more musical-genre-specific “rock novels”—but for the last decade I’ve also been calling them stories “infused with music.” Isolated open book “Infused with music” resonates with me because it captures both of the...

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The Great Battle

December 27, 2022

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” This quote, often attributed to Philo of Alexandria, serves as the epigraph fronting my novel Never Break the Chain. It was a good fit for that story, in which every major character is up against a seismic challenge of one kind or another, but also one that continues to reverberate in real life. My brother Gerry, who teaches at the University of Virginia, recently quoted it to his students the first time they met after the November 13 shootings there, as a reminder that every single person they might...

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Reunited States

July 1, 2022

Two years of isolation, disconnection, and toxic political divisiveness are enough to make anyone feel alienated—and enough to make the prospect of something as simple as a high school reunion feel like tap-dancing through a minefield. Going into my two-years-delayed 40th high school reunion a couple of weeks back I was anxious about two things: being in a large-ish group during a pandemic that’s not over yet—thankfully the group wasn’t that large and our reunion took place mostly outside—and hanging out with old friends whom I care about deeply, but in some cases disagree with dramatically when it comes to...

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The Comet and the Colt

February 21, 2022

Arthur was special; that much was clear from the moment I first walked into his classroom. My high school buddies and I, we talked a good game, but inside we were scared as hell. We didn’t know what we wanted to do or who we wanted to be, we just knew there were expectations pressing in on us from all sides—family, teachers, peers—and we felt the urgency to figure it all out every day. Some part of that pressure resulted from the knowledge that we were privileged to attend an expensive private high school. On the flip side, one of...

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What Matters Most

January 5, 2022

The Korean-language edition of my mother's 1960 debut The Thinking Book was what finally did me in. I sat on the floor with various foreign versions of her books heaped all around me and stared at it for a count of five, then looked up at Karen and announced “I need a break.” Like so many others, when the pandemic hit in March 2020, we said “Hey! We’ve been meaning to clean out the closets!” We even watched a couple of Marie Kondo videos before returning to shows that actually did “spark joy.” And then life happened and we couldn’t...

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Bonus Time

December 22, 2021

Tirah the tabby, the last cat standing from the trio we enjoyed for 15 years, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in August 2020. At the time, the doctors gave her six to 12 months. Sixteen months later, I just fed her breakfast to quiet her demands. With her two contemporaries gone before her, one at age 19 and the other at 15, one just before her diagnosis and one not long after, Tirah is now queen of the household and loving it. She was the least assertive member of the three-cat household she lived in for most of her life,...

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‘The Remembering’ is Here

December 6, 2021

The Remembering: Reflections on Love, Art, Faith, Heroes, Grief and Baseball—on sale now—grew out of a conversation that began right here. So the first thing to say again today, is thanks. As regular readers know, that conversation about relationships and values and grief and art, and the feedback loop it created, started me down a path that culminates today. (If you’re interested in learning more about that path and writing process, you can do that here, here, and here.) As for why you might want to read this book, it’s pretty simple: if you’re curious about the human condition, this...

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The Book I Was Meant to Write

November 30, 2021

“This isn’t the book I meant to write… but apparently it’s the book I was meant to write.” That was the one fresh line I had solidly in mind when I sat down over the summer to rewrite the introduction to The Remembering: Reflections on Love, Art, Faith, Heroes, Grief and Baseball (coming Dec. 6). It came to mind because it’s the truth. The first draft of The Remembering opened with an introduction that you may never see. It focused mostly on the writer’s journey—a worthy topic, but let’s face it, one that can come off as a bit precious...

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Hybrid Vigor and Other Matters

November 16, 2021

My mother used the term “hybrid vigor” more than once over the years in a context that would be considered cringeworthy today. That said, her intentions were good, and her point was scientifically valid—combining two things with different characteristics can produce powerful and sometimes unexpected results. It’s a thought that came back to me again when considering The Remembering: Reflections on Love Art, Faith, Heroes, Grief and Baseball, coming December 6. As outlined last time, my initial inspiration was to collect the essays published on this blog in recent years in book form, pulling in other first-person essays I’ve written...

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You Did This (Thanks)

November 9, 2021

Seriously: you did this. And I’m so glad you did. You did it by making it clear that I haven’t in fact been shouting into the hurricane for the past four years, that the essays published in this space over that period of time were reaching and resonating with an audience of faithful readers. Beginning in January 2018, in the span of 20 months, I lost my mother, my father, and my job of more than a decade. The day after I collected the last family mementos from my father’s house, the world shut down in a once-a-century pandemic. It...

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