(First published in the Antioch Review, Fall 2012; named a Notable Essay of 2012 in "Best American Essays 2013," Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Since before I could read, one of my favorite books was an oversized volume of my mother’s, a collection of photographs of ballet stars of the thirties and forties — Alicia Markova, Léonide Massine, Alexandra Danilova. The pictures, by the great Maurice Seymour, were taken with a large-format camera and dramatic studio lighting, which made the dancers appear to stand still even in the air. I was too young to know that photography makes time stand still as well. Only years later did I realize that I would never see them perform.
(First published in the Palo Alto Review, Spring 2009)
The printing firm where I used to work was a family business, established when the last century was new, on the lower west side of Manhattan, and it was there that I came to know Clarence Perweiler.
When I first saw him he was in his late twenties, although I couldn’t tell that from a glance. While his height and coloring were unremarkable, his girth was prodigious. When he walked, his sausage-like arms bounced off the sides of his spherical torso. He moved short distances with a shuffling roll from side to side, settling into a chair like an ocean liner coming into dock.
(First published in the Gettysburg Review, Fall 2008)
When I sent my résumé to the Great Man’s magazine, I expected no response. The magazine had advertised for a “fast-thinking, literate secretary” to transcribe tapes and process words, tasks at which I was reputed to be a whiz. But I couldn’t believe that the prestigious magazine — even the President read it — could not find among its own some girlfriend or cousin with the requisite skills.
Six days after I mailed my application, I got a phone call from a full-bodied English voice. "This is Miss Winter, of the magazine."
(First published in the Tribeca Trib, April 1998)
A psychic once told me that I should live near the water. Shortly after that I moved to a place near the East River, and the vibrations proved beneficial. The location brought love and creativity — what passes for happiness.
(First published in Columbia Magazine, Fall 1991)
Beneath the gilded dome of the Invalides in Paris lie the bones of Napoleon I. The fallen emperor is protected by six concentric coffins within a sarcophagus, in a crypt adorned with statues commemorating his career. "The majesty of the setting perfectly befits the Emperor's image," says the Michelin guide.
But part of Napoleon is in a less secure facility.
(First published in Columbia Magazine, Spring 1991)
As anyone knows who ever sat down to write, writing is thinking. The thought not only precedes the word, it follows it too: we do not know what we mean to say until, after many trials and errors, we have found the words.
(First published in Columbia College Today, Fall 1988)
In my lost youth, before I became conventional, I joined a Columbia fraternity. It was the end of my freshman year at Barnard and I was tired of the shrieks and giggles of women.