Cover

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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

...Thanks go to the National Endowment for the Arts for a fellowship that aided in the writing of this book. Great thanks go as well to Henry Dunow, Dr. Richard Q. Ford, Bill Friedricks, Phillip Lopate, Alice Mattison, Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, Fiona McCrae, Sue Miller, and Jane Rosenman for their advice and support. And...

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Introduction

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pp. xi-xiv

...health, I became aware that three key and quite disparate parts of me were showing common signs of wear. It was as if they’d colluded in a devilish partnership to simultaneously launch the beginning mischief of age. First, the cataracts that had long been ripening in both eyes had reached the stage where they needed to...

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Here We Were at Exactly This Moment

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pp. 1-12

...of windows, casting us in a warm and welcoming morning light. And the sunlight’s disposition was the room’s in general, thanks to the nurses moving quickly about like focused, happy hosts. At the moment they were happily hosting two other patients besides myself, the three of us here for cataract surgeries. We were sitting comfortably in something like settees that fold down flat, when...

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Tenacity

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pp. 13-26

...It was one of hundreds rising up out of the snow in long, straight rows like a bumper winter crop. There’d been no new storms for several days, the winter now refined to a wind that raked your face. This cemetery was a spot of intimately familiar earth, where my brother, Bob, and I had buried our father almost seven years before and where we’d come as children for our...

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What Was Served

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pp. 27-64

...of the acreage. The land, as lawn, sloped away from the foundation and flattened out in all directions until it met the surrounding fields, then continued extremely as rows of corn and soybeans. A wide, pillared porch wrapped around the north and east sides of the house. As a boy, in summer, I sometimes paused in my play...

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Iowa Wine

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pp. 65-76

...the top of the vines and saw new pale-green tendrils corkscrewing toward the sun. Their reaching for light was, of course, natural tropism. But if grape vines had a conscience (and I’ve heard winemakers in Napa and Sonoma sometimes speak of them as if they do—a conscience, a brain, and a resolute will) then their...

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Touching

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pp. 77-90

...no resemblance to the man I later learned of from my mother’s recollections—the profane coal miner, working the Midwest’s meager bituminous lode, whose nightly drinking started once he’d finished scrubbing himself clean from his day beneath the ground, and continued through supper and his remaining waking...

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The Life He Left Her

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pp. 91-104

...and some months after his death, while visiting her, I walked from her apartment to the village cemetery, a distance of two blocks, to look at the gray marble gravestone. It had just recently been set. Reaching it, I saw that its polished face was relatively plain: just their names, and touches of scrollwork in the upper...

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Hoss’s Knee

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pp. 105-119

...This was Dr. Matzkin’s way of introducing herself, holding up my X-rays as she entered the exam room. There was a kind of collegial jauntiness in her tone that made me think for a moment she was about to show me someone else’s...

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What We Hunger For

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pp. 120-141

...Sitting behind his desk, a thin, perennially agitated man wreathed as always in cigarette smoke, he excitedly announced that M.F.K. Fisher was going to write a piece for the magazine on New Orleans food and restaurants. He saved me from saying, “M.F.K. Fisher? Who’s he?” by relaying her one demand....

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It’s Time

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pp. 142-152

...tallwindowed room where I’d been prepped for my first cataract surgery exactly two weeks before. Across from me, a woman soon to be wheeled away to the operating room was waiting for the intravenous sedatives to take her dreamily. She had a long, bony face and prominent teeth, which sat in her mouth like...

Further Reading

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pp. 153-154