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Blues to Be there

I have a prepared statement, and then there’ll be an improvisation. I hate to do a fully prepared speech in New York, because you never know. This is called… More

Lonesome Animals

And Mr. Steinbeck wanted to do this interview, but before we got started on it, he died. He did speak of a diary that he kept when he was… More

Michele Serros: Small-Town Tales

"Small-Town Tales," by Michele Serros, appears in PEN America 4: Fact/Fiction. This talk was presented, in slightly different form, at a PEN Twentieth-Century Masters Tribute to John Steinbeck.Small-Town TalesAfter my… More

Herself and Strangers

Who’s afraid of Gertrude Stein? I’m not, nor, I trust, are you. We’re paying tribute tonight to a Stein who may, at last, no longer be avoided and pigeonholed… More

Studs Terkel: The More Things Change

PEN American Center 4: Fact/FictionThis talk was presented, in slightly different form, at a PEN Twentieth-Century Masters Tribute.Dorothy Allison reminds me of a woman I know in Chicago named… More

Family Secrets

One of the conditions of being a writer is that all those authors you have loved and learned from, and by necessity have taught yourself to forget, the better… More

Nadine Gordimer: Cross-Pollination

"Cross-Pollination," by Nadine Gordimer, appears in PEN America 2: Home and Away. This talk was originally presented at a Twentieth-Century Masters Tribute to Marcel Proust, sponsored by the PEN American… More

Theories of Relativity

Marcel Proust lived from 1871 to 1922, an era that he characterized as the Age of Speed. These exciting, momentous years encompassed the Fin de Siècle, Belle Epoch, and… More

Language Barriers

I met Beckett in the mid ’60s. I’d started to read him in the mid ’50s and I wanted to meet the man. I didn’t often want to meet… More

Father of Choice

Life clung to Samuel Beckett, irritatingly, for eighty-three and three-quarter years. When he told me he’d lost his teeth, I mumbled an inanity: “It could be worse.” Without pause, he… More

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