General Note
When blurbing one’s books, it is customary to reprint the blurbs of other writers whose arms may have been twisted, or to quote critics, who—for whatever reason—admired a book at the moment of publication. Instead I thought I’d retype some passages. Let you decide for yourself. Radical idea?

Of course retyping made me itch to edit and maybe re-write, but then isn’t this a little like chess: once you’ve taken your hand off the bishop, you’re supposed to live with the consequences. So I’ve resisted, except in the introduction to The Letters of John Cheever. Here I cut deeply. I wanted to get quickly past my own angst and give at least a glimpse of the letters.

Famous After Death

(Bloomsbury USA; 2000)


“The man who throws a bomb is an artist, because he prefers a great moment to anything.”
—G. K. Chesterton
From the journals of Noel Hammersmith. The entry is undated, but was almost certainly composed in the spring of 1988.
All the prisoners wanted to be on camera. Early this morning, they started banging the bars and stamping their feet, and by the time the crew arrived, the ruckus was deafening. So Candy Ass—that’s what we call the warden, Candy Ass—made an agreement with the producer: If the convicts put a lid on it after the interview, the camera could dolly slowly down the line of cells, and everybody could wave and blow kisses.
The Corrections Officers were furious. “You’re making scumbags into movie stars! Whose side are you on anyway?” They wanted a ranked shot of the entire prison staff, short ones kneeling in front. The world’s fattest, nastiest, and most frequently defeated varsity squad. “Team Cardiac,” that’s what the prisoners call them.
The producer wouldn’t budge. Finally, after a series of angrily whispered conferences, it was agreed that three CO’s would come on camera to unshackle and then lead me back to my cell. The staff could draw straws to determine which guards got the exposure.