Jan/Feb 2020

e c l e c t i c a
n o n f i c t i o n


(These are excerpts—click on the title to view the whole piece!)

Bad Bells

I have thought about this evening many times over the subsequent quarter century. I see the rusty red color of the walls of the room, the white tablecloth on the table before me, and the opening to the restaurant lobby and exit several feet behind him. I can hear people behind me filling their plates from the buffet, oblivious to the tension at our table.

Margaret Donovan Bauer

Diplomacy, with Kids

If we were not rich, we were somewhat more prosperous when we lived overseas. When we lived in Rome, we vacationed in the Dolomites and in Sicily. We always had a maid, and in Moscow we had a live-in and lively Canadian nanny named Frances, who took the children by trolleybus to skate in Gorky Park while Mary Jane managed the commissary and Peter drafted reports on what we thought might be going on in that secretive country.

Peter Bridges

Those People
(Spotlight Runner-Up!)

An era's predominant concerns will be reflected in its metaphors, so it isn't surprising that computer phenomena and nuclear proliferation are referred to as "infectious." Perhaps it's inevitable such analogies sometimes collapse and veer toward the real. When the computer lexicon, for example, borrowed the word "virus" for a rapidly multiplying computer failure, it spawned a subgenre of science fiction thrillers like Graham Watkins's Virus, in which superviruses transfer themselves from machine to user and threaten millions. This seems a clear case of anxiety over ambiguous boundaries, in this case between man and machine, of the sort now put into question daily by developments in robotics and AI.

David Raney


There's a game I love to try while going to bed or waiting for the school bus: guess the ways God can make your future children suffer if you're not careful.

Jessica Ripka

After Kafka in Berlin

I'm hardly alone in feeling degrees of uneasiness in reading Kafka's letters—rich as they are in drama, melodrama, and quotidian detail—for he surely intended them for Felice's eyes only. He famously willed the incineration of all his unpublished manuscripts—letters and diaries included. And Max Brod, as executor, famously defied that will and devoted much of his own life to publishing all of Kafka's retrievable writings and promoting the literary legacy of his best friend.

Elana Wolff