The Queens Gambit, and the Fiction of Chess

Note: After reading Vladimir Nabokov’s The Defense some years ago, I became interested in the use of chess as a major element in works of fiction, possibly because I was trying–unsuccessfully, it turned out–to improve my decidedly mediocre skill at the game. I read a number of novels and stories and wrote the following essay […]

Remembering José

The first illegal immigrant I hired for my construction crew was a small, dark man named José, from the Mexican state of Oaxaca. He called himself a Zapotec, and despite his slight stature he had no difficulty toting ninety-pound sacks of cement or spending an entire day digging a trench. My Spanish was almost as […]

Life, Death and Mansionization

This is the story of Jack and Nancy Wright. It is also the story of mansionization, the term of art for tearing down modest, perfectly livable houses and building what are pejoratively called “McMansions” in their place. In the Venice district of Los Angeles where my wife and I have lived for thirty-two years, this […]

Why Iowa?

An enduring mystery to me is how–and why–Iowa became a pivotal cog in the machinery of picking a presidential candidate. I’ve lived in California since the late 1970s, but I was born and raised in Iowa, went to college and got married and had a child in Iowa, and worked for five years as a […]