Things American: In the Air, Election Night 2016

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My ears won’t pop, and the bites on my right arm itch, my arm and neck—red flares I can’t ascribe to any particular predator, just marks of Texas. I get a second tiny bottle of whiskey. My taller-than-me daughter sleeps against my shoulder, too old these days, too grown up. We are over the Rockies, Denver to Helena, a tiny plane half full. I get the second whiskey because the flight attendant asks if I want another before she closes out her till. No flight attendant has ever asked me this. I will always have another if offered […]

Things American: Thoughts on Last Night

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It felt sad and strange today to be sitting at the helm of a magazine called American Short Fiction. That first word on our masthead, our understanding of what that word means, pulled and pinched and pummeled as it has been over the last few months by our leaders and our pundits and by the new president-elect most of all, took a violent final beating last night, and it was hard, this morning, not to hear a bitter, bruised irony in its syllables […]

Things American: Treatment vs. Healing

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1. The nurse woke me at four-thirty in the morning to take my blood. Someone else had taken it less than six hours before, in the emergency room, but pointing that out seemed disrespectful because he was a nurse with years of schooling behind him, and I was just another suicidal senior in high school. […]

Hunter S. Thompson & Oscar Acosta in the Desert:
A 45-Year Retrospective

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On the morning of Friday, March 19th, 1971, Hunter S. Thompson, already the bestselling author of one book and long overdue on his contract for another, accepted what appeared to be a fairly innocuous journalistic assignment: write five hundred words of copy for Sports Illustrated to go along with a photo essay on the Mint 400 motorcycle race […]

Things American: At the Mountains of Loneliness

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I went to the Arctic Circle because of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. I went there to work on a novel, too, but I wouldn’t be writing a novel—wouldn’t even still be a writer—without Lovecraft. While in the Arctic, I thought about Cthulhu. I carried a protective charm a friend had stitched for me in case I encountered any Old Ones. I stared into the fissures of three-hundred-foot-tall glaciers and expected to see a tentacle lash out […]

Things American: Ken Kesey, Hunter S. Thompson and the Hell’s Angels at La Honda: August 7th, 1965

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Fifty years ago today, Ken Kesey, not yet thirty and already the author of two acclaimed novels, invited the members of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang […]

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