ON DOUBLE TALK:
"My Italian mother-in-law tells me that America is responsible for all the madness in the world, and it is beyond my Italian-language skill set to both agree and disagree. "
ON THE PERSONAL-POLITICAL:
"I originally called this piece Notable Quotations from The Best American Essays 2003, because I planned to pick out pithy wisdom from guest editor Anne Fadiman’s choices, quotations telescoping what we’ve lost and learned since 2003. But there’s more to say than a mere list: in this volume, Fadiman champions hefty personal essays that make personal and worldly collisions strikingly clear.
"At first, I thought BAE2003 wasn’t a particularly timely collection, that it didn’t engage the whole wide world in ways I find urgent and necessary. The essays chosen by Fadiman would have been published in 2002, and as such, I expected to find more of them wrestling with the events of September 11, 2001. I expected to find more sense of the drumbeat to the Iraq war, as a diversion from the Afghanistan war, a shift that palpably occurred in America in the fall of 2002 and on into March 2003 when the bombing of Baghdad started. But then I looked more closely at the anthology, and I further changed my mind as I zeroed in on John Edgar Wideman’s essayistic reflections, “Whose War.” Wideman struggles to explain why anyone “would want to throw more words on a pile so high the thing to be written about has disappeared.” Bingo. How do we articulate fear?
"I was wrong to assume that BAE2003 does not engage the world; it certainly does not showcase an all-too-typical American blind spot even in our post-9/11 world. John Edgar Wideman writes that 'the lives lost [on September 11, 2001] mirror our own fragility and vulnerability, our unpredictable passage through the mysterious flow of time that eternally surrounds us, buoys us, drowns us.'"