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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

And Endless Sorrow

Book Review

Endless Love is a novel that seems to leave unsaid as much as it says; one has the feeling that its narrator, David Axelrod, could have told a story twice as long, or could write another novel made up just of the events he has left out. What seems to me most brilliant about this novel that is brilliant on every page is the place where it chooses to begin, on the warm summer Chicago night when David sets fire to the house of the girl, and the family, that he loves. He had been banned from the house for thirty days, apparently because his relationship with Jade Butterfield had grown so intense as to be almost dangerous, and he had hoped just to set a small fire, on the porch, so that the Butterfields would have to come out and he could see them (or was that all he intended? We soon realize in this novel that we are in the hands of a first person narrator, and have only his word concerning his motivations;  others see things differently). The fire, however, has consequences he had never imagined. Scott Spencer seems to be taking up his narrative at the end, the end of a fabulous love story in which a boy falls hopelessly in love with a girl and, by extension, with her family, but really his story is not of that adolescent love, but of its consequences. The consequences are endless.

The High Diving Board

The high diving board is the first thing you see when approaching Forest Swimming Pool. It stands like a guard tower over the fence-enclosed pool. I’ve been watching this high diving board and the activity that surrounds it for thirty years. As a child I couldn’t wait to go off that precipice. When my turn came I did the best cannonball possible for someone wearing surfer trunks and not wanting to get his hair wet.

Mining The Lost Years

Even at the peak of my methamphetamine days, I would have had trouble talking for seven hours. I aim to please, however. A longing to please is both my weakness and my strength. It’s why I cook, why I write, why I take five years to get a sentence right, why I’m so goofily polite, why I reply to fan letters from prisoners.

On (Not) Reading Anne Frank

The first time someone told me I looked like Anne Frank was also the first conversation I had about pubic hair. Now, of course it’s possible the two topics weren’t actually discussed back to back and my subconscious simply saw an opening one night while I was asleep and stitched the two memories together.

The Wrong Imam

If we could have been inside his heart, if we could have been offered transportation from our Jerusalem to his heaven, this is what we might have absorbed: Abkar was not leading us in prayer. He was talking to God while we happened to be behind him, squeezed in so tightly we could hardly find places for our foreheads on flawless plush carpet.

Selling Out

I’ve started wearing a tie. To anyone who’s known me for the past fifteen years, this is highly improbable, as if I’d started wearing a dress. I didn’t even have a tie until recently, but I’ve been buying them at the Thrift Shop, for fifty cents each — modest, conservative ties. I’m not dressing as a clown. I’m trying to look like a businessman.

When The War-Father Appears

i can see the worst all right — the earth exploding in some climactic chain reaction and all of us going off sparking out at the same time and i think i am going to like it if it happens that way after all we’ll be learning something together something massive that we’ve been trying to understand for a while and in that final sparking and arcing of the earth’s blow-up we’ll finally get it we’ll understand

Pennies From Grandma

Best of all were the birds. . . . How there could have been so many, how there could have been such color in the midst of Bristol, I do not know; or even what part of the image after more than thirty years is factual. Memory becomes reality, and it is magic to me.

Telling Time

We rent a condominium together, my eighty-six-year-old widowed mother and I. Sometimes she summons me from her bedroom at the end of the hall. I have learned to guess from her tone what it is she wants.