STARGAZING IN THE ATOMIC AGE: ESSAYS
University of Georgia Press, 2020
“Einstein spent the large measure of his waking hours thinking through forces that remain mostly unreckoned. Ultimately, it was mystery rather than certainty that arrested him--in music as in math. An art of concordance, music bespeaks the exquisitely tuned relationships that hold the planets in their orbits, the stars in the sky, and us, marvels of molecular engineering, in our own skins. A psalm that reconnects the wandering self to the world in the largest sense, music gestures outward through intangibles of feeling, encouraging our attention to stray beyond the lines that divide nation-states toward the shimmering curve of Earth's atmosphere.
Is there a way in which the laws of music parallel the mathematical principles contemporary cosmologists use to spell out the shape of the universe Einstein began to make out? Maybe such a correspondence is only my romantic fancy. Still, I would bargain that more than one scientific thinker is prompted now and again by Mozart, that other wandering star. Even those of us who appear blank in the face of physics know that the circumlocutions of water molecules follow the pull of the moon two hundred thousand miles distant from Earth's oceans. Is it so strange to imagine that the musical phrases amplified in our cars and rooms and earphones might call us all toward the velvet darkness of much farther shores?” Click here to learn more at my Stargazing page.
"DARWIN AND DICKINSON AMONG THE HELIOTROPES," Georgia Review, Fall/Winter 2018, A Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2019
“Could any music be brilliant enough to describe the plants’ deft translation? The winking lights of a city sizzling like water in a pan—is this the sound in their cells? The scientist puzzling out a scribbled equation alongside fellows, the schoolchild bent over a worksheet shared with other students—we are all onlookers before the silent grandeur of atoms riven trillions of times daily by the quiet labor of the plants.”
"THE KINGOM OF THE MEDUSAE," Southwest Review, Spring 2016, a notable essay in Best American Essays 2017 and Best American Science and Nature Writing 2017
“Do we soar and dive to learn how energies survive such places, or only to know what it is to dwell in the voids that sustain them? Maybe it is the aloofness of the medusae that attracts us, the same way we link our moods to the moon or turn our eyes to the sun despite its dangers. Or perhaps these animals barely altered since the early years of Earth gesture toward our own first days, from which we feel as distanced.” Click here to read the full essay.
"HURRY UP, PLEASE," THE GUARDIAN
“Do I want to hear a drinking joke? Do I seem like the type who would answer that question? A guy walks into a bar, and so what? Maybe he nods at the regular who keeps to the corner or eyes the ragged blonde grabbing a smoke from a guy whose paunch prevents him from seeing the floor at his feet. Then he raises a glass and knocks back another and disappointment moves offshore with a woozy throttle. One look at the spirits lining the counter and he can kiss goodbye the crap that follows him home from work and the carping that begins at the door of his two-bed, two-bath castle.” Click here to read the story.
"TRAVELS WITH JANE EYRE," Georgia Review 2014, A NOTABLE ESSAY IN BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 2015 and BEST AMERICAN TRAVEL WRITING 2015
“Reader, do you know your younger selves any better than you do the side streets and boulevards to which you travel? How many of us can discipline our different identities to fit one character’s contour?” Read the full text on The Georgia Review website.
"SOUVENIRS OF STONE," Southwest Review, A Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2014
“Memoirists study the faces of family while geologists examine rock faces. Like the body, whose scars and stretch marks map its history, rocks carry the memories of their making. Scored by glaciers, warped and faulted, they are the solid ghosts of early Earth.”
"Questions of Transport," Georgia Review, a notable essay in Best American Essays 2011
“The flimsy spine of my paperback Inferno gathers the centuries as closely as the stitches of Dante’s fourteenth-century manuscript once bound its vellum pages. I read outside my flat, and the days spool past like those years, in a blur of sound half-heard and image half-noticed. A breeze fans my skin, recalling me to the body from which I have slipped away. I look up from a paragraph and watch the moving leaves transmute the invisible world, for a moment, into something seen.” View PDF of excerpt
"Ode to Energy," Southwest Review, A NOTABLE ESSAY IN BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 2012
“Maybe I feared wind’s waywardness as much as its power when I was small. I had gone to sleep hearing wind whistle and bang at our door, yet when I woke in the still morning and looked out through the wire mesh of the screen I could find no trace of taunting. Summer storms spelled out this loss of control for me most clearly, the atmosphere’s sudden transformation into turbulence a betrayal that mirrored the way my affectionate father could rise against me or spin away in irritation.”
"Double Vision," Gettysburg Review, a notable essay in Best American Essays 2010
“Human ties sustain only as long as they are shored up. Perhaps as the members of my family aged, the strong subterranean current of kinship would have lost its pull upon all of us even without my brother’s early passing. But I choose to think otherwise. And so I end this essay with two stories; whether they provide resolution, I leave for you, reader, to decide.”
"Stargazing in the Atomic Age," Georgia Review, a notable essay in Best American Essays 2007
“I favored irreverence because it allowed me a small rebellion against this incurious citizenry, as parsimonious of gesture as they were of speech. For a people who valued social compliance above all else, gaudiness was godlessness, brashness an unpardonable sin. Talking with your hands was showy, vulgar, gauche. It was what my father called, in the loud drawl he designated as parody, “taaaacky,” the very word itself too tacky for Bostonians to speak.” View PDF of excerpt
"In Praise of Saul Bellow," Michigan Quarterly Review, a notable essay in Best American Essays 2009
“The living and the dead, the heat of sex and the listless, disease-ridden body, the tang of red wine mixed with the rusty taste of blood: sumptuous thoughts glow inside the bodies of the middle-aged and elderly men in Bellow’s novels, men startled by the ease with which a little fuel makes the soul’s pilot light flare to incandescent brightness.”
Read full text on Michigan Quarterly Review website.
"Listening to Gershwin," Georgia Review, silver award for Best Essay, Magazine Association of the Southeast
“Nothing in the American classical repertoire comes close to the Rhapsody’s bravura. The clarinet’s chromatic rush up the scale is as American as a slide into home plate and as Jewish as a village wedding dance—a Fifth Avenue strut with a swashbuckling nudge and wink, a street whistle that deepens into expressiveness as the music climbs upward: the melancholy brightness of klezmer stretched around the swagger of jazz.” View PDF of excerpt
"Soulful Modernism," Southwest Review, accorded “Special Mention” in Pushcart Prize XXXIV, Best of the Small Presses
“Is it memory that enriches painting? Or something in the canvas that restores recollection? We assume that the power visual artists hold rests in their ability to provoke us by seeing differently—by making things strange. Not so. The new might turn our heads, but what keeps us looking is something deeper, something that resonates with our own visual fields, horizon lines sustained as much from the insight of memory as from sight itself.”
"Wild Things," The Pedestrian
“Long ago we too were animals, morphing from bird to beast and back again as quickly as this sentence comes to conclusion. Identity is fluid for the young. Watch an infant move: tender as sea anemones, arms wave in air as they once swayed in the womb’s sea-surge, the soft-nailed baby fingers unfurling in the direction of a voice.” View more on The Pedestrian’s website.