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I was what — two years old.  It was a nightmare.  I was running.  Somehow I was near a giant hole.  And I fell.  It was a death dream.  My earliest memory.  But was it actually a death dream and did I actually know what death was at that age.  And do I now.

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Last Sunday I bumped into Iris Smyles, the notoriously reclusive author of the new novel Iris Has Free Time, as she was leaving her favorite stationery store in New York City’s East Village. She growled and tried to move past me, but not before I persuaded her to answer five questions about the writing life.

Iris_CATI smooth my hair into a bun, pull a lint brush from my desk and run it over my sport jacket. I like to dress conservatively these days; one can conceal a lot more in professional attire, I find. I start down the hall, my modest brown pumps punctuating my stride like gentle commas separating items on the long list I’ve just posted to my blog.*

16101090Hartland, Vermont, 2013

Nick was on his way into town when the text came through from Tom Feely: “get here now cheese inspector.”

Nick pulled a youie, then made a sharp right onto Densmore Hill Road. It was a cold December and the hill would be hard going, but Nick had chains on his tires. He’d get to the farm in time to charm the inspector.

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To Do List

Live more.
Laugh more.
Have more sex.
Explode orgasmic mind juice
into active imagination.

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Office

When we were sixteen, my twin sister spent a summer working in the admissions office at a nearby college. I don’t remember what her job was, but I do remember that her boss spent all day playing solitaire on his computer. Every time my sister walked past his door, there he was, clicking away, trying to put those cards in order. He didn’t even attempt to hide it. My sister was shocked by this. He was the dean. He got up in the morning, showered, combed his hair, put on his business casual, drove to the office, and sat in his swivel chair playing solitaire from nine to five? She couldn’t believe it. I, however, was impressed.

Happy Rock by Matthew SimmonsThe delicious economy of good short fiction can give you a character in two sentences, a world in a paragraph, or in five words deliver one exquisite detail that captures the gist of an entire story. In his new collection Happy Rock, Matthew Simmons gives us all of these, and over the course of fifteen stories set mostly in rural Michigan, a picture of an author whose loyalties are clearly located among the misfits and mistreated of the upper peninsula of the mainstream.

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Riding SoloOn the online w4m casual encounters section of Craigslist, real women write ambiguously desperate posts like: let’s grab a drink and then… or spend some time together… or wanting it now!  They have grainy camera-phone self portraits taken in their bathroom mirrors. My laptop’s battery heats my thighs as I wait for these lonely women to come home—from what I imagine are evenings of failed dates, leftovers, and season finales of the Biggest Loser—and hop online for a quickie.

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