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Entries in Growing Up Modern (5)


The Fairytale in Granta

In December Granta published an excerpt from the book I'm working on GROWING UP MODERN. In the book I look at the values inherent in places from the modernist suburb where I grew up to where I live now in the Catskill Mountains. I'm trying to uncover civic values, what holds us together, the bigger things and ideas that bind us and how they come to be represented. Here in "The Fairytale," I'm searching for what was driving the dream of modernism. I grew up thinking my parents' Swedish flatware could change the world. Granted I was a kid wiht a skewed perspective on the adult world, but I go back to try and understand how such beliefs came to adhere to things. I am in part nostalgic for that time, and for the idea that the world is improvable and that things-- even as simply as cutlery--could have some power for change. So I return home as my mother is dying and ask all the people my parents' age who are still left in the community what modernism meant to them and why.

I go looking for their progressive ethos and find, yes, co-ops and collectives and left-leaning values, but behind the walls of glass I also find the Cold War, spies and the CIA, and am left with questions about my father and his values. You can read more on Granta's site here:


To Write About A Hole in VQR

For their very awesome and just-released issue "Street Life," Virginia Quarterly Review published my essay "To Write About A Hole" first on Instagram and then in the magazine. The essay dives down holes in city streets and language, starting with finding "halcyon" on a steel plate on the street in NYC. From there, language slips free gets tossed into the road and travels to where I live upstate. Here that hole in the street connects directly to the reservoir and the "halcyon" to halcyonidae, the kingfisher, which lives along the reservoir and on the stream behind my house...

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The Rainmaker's Flood in Harper's

The nature of ice and snow, Johannes Kepler, war, water and weather modification -- all as it centers around one tiny village: Margaretville, NY. Harper's ran my essay on snow, rain, the city's reservoir system and how one Cold War weapon called on Kepler and changed my village... The rain was silver. It was meant to stop a drought. It brought flooding, and extended from these hills later to Laos and Vietnam, and it was developed in part by Kurt Vonnegut's brother.

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The Place of the Bridge in The White Review

There are countless reasons why I love TWR, and I am grateful that they wanted to run The Place of the Bridge, an essay on brutalism, slavery, feminism, one woman's perilous fall from one of Britain's most famous bridges, the development of lead shot (more perilous falls) and three virgin girls buried in the floor of a medieval church. It's about what goes unseen, what we choose to ignore in the civic landscape. Patches of gum in the pavement, politics and the way capital courses all around us and shapes how we experience the city.

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Notting Hill Editions – Essay Prize

THE LONGLIST FOR the biennial William Hazlitt Essay Prize was just announced... and I am on it. The prize is £20,000 given for a single essay. The long list is long, but also on it are such luminaries as Ben Lerner, Charlotte Higgins, Tim Parks and Hal Foster. I am on the list for my essay "The Rainmakers' Flood," about the nature of ice and snow, Johannes Kepler, war, water and weather modification – also the brothers Vonnegut Kurt and Bernard and how all of these things wind up causing a flood here in the Western Catskills in 1950 thanks to New York City. The essay is one chapter of the book I'm working on Growing Up Modern.

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