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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Confederacy Of Dunces

The Tyranny Of Compulsory Schooling

Let me speak to you about dumbness because that is what schools teach best. Old-fashioned dumbness used to be simple ignorance: you didn’t know something, but there were ways to find out if you wanted to. Govemment-controlled schooling didn’t eliminate dumbness — in fact, we now know that people read more fluently before we had forced schooling — but dumbness was transformed.

Zen Mud

“I’ll be right over,” I said to Jeff as I hung up the phone. I was living in Kyoto with a tiny old Japanese woman whose seventy-seven-year-old husband was my sensei, or teacher. I’d met Sensei at my college in Colorado, where he came to teach a seminar on Zen Buddhism. He didn’t really live at his house in Kyoto: he was always traveling and staying with other people. His wife spoke no English, and my Japanese was barely sufficient to feed myself at the restaurants around town. We spoke very little; just smiled and bowed when we passed one another.


Maybe Dad was looking out the kitchen window, drinking a cup of coffee, or smoking. He must have seen something because he went outside. I’m sure that my mother, my younger brother Steve, and I were in the kitchen; it was breakfast. I think I remember getting to the window in time to see Dad hurriedly close the doghouse door and signal. Anyway I do remember all four of us standing in front of the doghouse.

Freedom’s Just Another Word

I meet with Mikhail Bazankov, a Russian novelist, who tells me the dissolution of the Soviet Union has been a mixed blessing for writers. With the Russian economy in shambles, he explains, it’s difficult to get books published and distributed.


My Study On Stay-Puts

You can do your studies on us migratory types all you want. My sister Rose came home from school last year saying that’s what you stay-puts call us. I told her you’re probably the same guys yelling White trash bastards go home when we drive through Salem. She says, no, you wouldn’t yell at us. She doesn’t think you even talk to us. She says you just check up on how many months we don’t go to school and how many kids we have and how many weeks we’re hungry in the off-season. 

A Snapshot Of Them Smiling

The heroine gasped and said to the hero, “Hurry! Hurry! We only have fifteen minutes to save the universe!” The monster,beast stepped on another building, and the desperate couple fled.

The Door

July started out at dawn and meant to get back before Malachi came calling for her. It didn’t seem late in the morning. It seemed she had only been out a couple of hours. Sitting on a huge rock in the center of the creek, she dangled her legs in the water. She leaned back, looking at mare’s tails in the sky. They always meant a change of weather and you never knew if it would be for bad or good.

Readers Write

Lost Causes

One morning a friend dropped me off at the train station, then rushed on to work. But the station wouldn’t open for another hour, the sign said. It was February; the temperature was in the twenties. It was so early it was still dark.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸


“Maybe journey is not so much a journey ahead, or a journey into space, but a journey into presence. The farthest place on earth to journey is into the presence of the person nearest to you.”

Nelle Morton

More Quotations ▸
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