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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

The Best Lack All Conviction

In The Paper’s Midtown Manhattan office, the long fluorescent light fixtures contained the silhouetted carcasses of cockroaches that had died making the journey from one end to the other. The carpet was a Rorschach test of spilled cola, coffee, and cigarette ashes. This was where I worked for the better part of a year.

Luchita And The Radio Man

A Searing, True-Life Tale of Broadcasting, Love, and Deception

The two of us are on a fact-finding expedition to Philo, California. At first, Luchita hadn’t wanted to come; she knew I was researching a magazine article, and she’s still a little peeved at certain references I made to her in a profile of Lola Falana I wrote some months back. But she knows I like her company, and that this article is important.

No Enemies, Except Ourselves

Book Review

Several years ago, my sister and I confided in one another that neither of us had ever known a feminist we liked. Neither of us could identify with the militancy of the movement, the partial insights passed off as truth, the self-righteous anger, the pseudo-snobbishness towards females who did not pounce on men who addressed them as “ladies,” or, God forbid, girls.

Mrs. Reilly And Her Little Ignatius

Book Review

We speak of dialogue as being authentic, but we seldom know if it is. When Mark Twain claimed to have used four modified varieties of the “Pike County” dialect, or John O’Hara to have duplicated the speech patterns of eastern Pennsylvanians, or Ring Lardner to have caught the exact flavor of conversation around a ballpark, there weren’t many readers who could have checked up on them, and thirty years later nobody cared anyway. What we ask of dialogue is not that it be authentic but that it seem so, and that it be lively, colorful, and interesting. Good dialogue does not reproduce speech, but imitates it, especially its rhythms, in a kind of shorthand. When a beginning writer with a sharp memory tries to reproduce speech, it is inevitably windy, lifeless, and dull.

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.