"Here is a story about Los Angeles: In 1935, a man who attempted to murder his wife gifted over 4,000 acres of land – previously owned by a man who had survived two attempts on his own life by separate, jilted lovers – to a corrupt mayor later driven from office by the efforts of a charitable Christian businessman with a side business in sexual novelties, who discovered that mayor’s secrets behind a false wall in a fake library. That businessman founded a thriving chain of restaurants built on the premise of giving away free food, one of which became the meeting place for a science fiction writer’s club, whose members included a man who conned a rocket scientist out of his life savings after first taking notes on how the scientist masturbated, and another man who convinced the city of Los Angeles to erect a three-story-tall fake Babylonian arch in the middle of Hollywood and then turn it into a shopping mall. This really happened, and I mention it here to remind you of the old saw about truth’s superlative relationship to fiction.

The Architecture of Belief

The Towner

"Before I started taxidermy, I imagined that spending so much time with a dead thing—holding it, weighing it, turning it over in my hands—might make death more understandable, but it hasn’t. Still I keep digging into the body—through skin, fat, muscle, organ, bones—digging for the secret, but the secret isn’t there."

Taking Care With Broken Things: How I Came to Practice Ethical Taxidermy


"You know how you teach a preschooler to swim? Well, for starters, you take away their foam noodle."

Survival Swimming

The Nervous Breakdown

"I went through eighteen years of schooling without ever once getting into trouble. This is because my two favorite activities are sitting quietly and doing what I’m told."


The Nervous Breakdown

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"In the nicest shot Beatrice is sitting on an overturned trash can with a giant pink plastic flower in her hair, but somehow she makes it look good, which is probably the definition of a born model."

From Here to There

Human Parts, Medium

"If I ever went to your house party and you had a band or a keg there, no matter what I told you at the time, I didn't have fun."


The Nervous Breakdown

"In the last eighteen years, I have taken classes in skiing, snowboarding, SCUBA diving, pole dancing, fencing, ballroom dancing, burlesque, ballet, jazz dance, yoga, tap, spinning, kickboxing, Pilates (prenatal and post-), Bar Method, karate, and wu shu; CPR, the Bradley Method, breastfeeding, infant care, and early childhood education; German, French, Old English, Latin, and Chinese; taxidermy, knitting, crocheting, quilting, needlepoint, candle-making, spinning, and sewing; drawing, singing, and sketch comedy; French cooking, wine tasting, olive oil tasting, landscape design, driving, and, due to a regrettable misunderstanding of the course description, geriatric water aerobics."



"Only a narcissistic maniac spends half her day imagining ways in which her slightest actions might utterly destroy everyone around her."

Imaginary Charity


"The five-and-a-half minute long cartoon begins with a crash and a bolt of lightning, followed immediately by a pair of wide eyes that take up the entire screen. These eyes resolve themselves into those of an owl, sitting blinking on a bare branch in a dark, wind-swept graveyard, framed against an impossibly large full moon."

Danse Macabre

Bright Wall Dark Room

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"For Christmas this year, my daughter wants Santa to bring her a magic wand that allows her to enter books and movies, interact with the characters, and change their outcomes . . . She also wants the wand to resurrect the dead, though she adds this bonus feature as something of an afterthought, like a stand mixer that also makes sausage."

Magical Thinking


"I am no better at being a nerd than I am at being popular. Here’s one thing I can promise you: whatever it means to be cool, I won’t be that thing."

Role Playing


"Trying to meet a deadline while locked in a house with a two-year-old and a three-month-old is like trying to pick your handcuff lock from the inside of a submerged steamer trunk."

"Working" From "Home"

The Nervous Breakdown

"I was strolling down the street with my sister, tossing mini gummy bears into my laughing throat, when death paid me a brief visit."

Death with Dignity

The Nervous Breakdown

"[C]ounting calories is the perfect hobby for me, combining as it does my love of simple accounting with my natural tendencies towards obsessive self-scrutiny and needless unhappiness."

Keeping Track

The Nervous Breakdown

"Like every hapless child that went to school in Los Angeles in the 1980s, I was terrified of The Big One."

The Big One


"Snow was in carols and coloring books and in plastic snow globes whose intimate bounded delicacy perfectly captured all the reasons I wanted winter."

The Four Season Climate, Comforting Boundaries, and Literary Lies


"I'm not hiding, stuffing, repressing, or buttoning anything. This is the real me. There's no one underneath. It's turtles, as they say, all the way down."

Turtles All the Way Down


"I am Jewish. I am Jewish when watching Woody Allen movies. I am Jewish at delis and bar mitzvahs and seders and synagogues. I am Jewish when talking to a good-looking Jewish man. But I am never Jewish at Christmas."

Family Truth

The Nervous Breakdown

"I would rather have a leprous beggar under my table than a belly dancer beside it."

Barren Spectators

The Nervous Breakdown

"Like most people who majored in Medieval Studies, I’ve spent a lot of time working in retail."

The Questing Consumer and the Myth of the Magical Back

The Nervous Breakdown

"The kitchen was a moldering closet piled high with unimaginable garbage . . . There was an unwrapped bar of soap in the bed sheets; a jagged pane of broken glass; there were three conical piles of salt on the rug."

Last Apartment in Paris; Or, A Warning

The Nervous Breakdown

"[D]iving provides all the novelty of drowning without the safe certainty of death."

The Importance of Attitud

The Rumpus

"I also love [L.A.] for a lot of silly, sentimental reasons: the sad, scary mammoth statues in Hancock Park; that car wash on Sunset Boulevard where my dad would let me eat the complimentary sugar cubes."

Choosing L.A.


"I never want to have fun again, as long as I live."

County Fairs and the Wages of Fun