Two's Company

Married sitcom writers, once famous for their love, buckle under sexual and creative differences.

"The funniest lines in their work, the lines with that satisfying crackle of sadism, were mostly his, but he was aware that it was Pam’s confidence and Pam’s higher tolerance for cliché that had won them their big contracts. And now, because she wasn’t engineered for doubt, Pam seemed to think it didn’t matter that she’d gained fifteen pounds since moving to the mountains and that she was thumping around the house with the adipose aquiver in her freckled upper arms; she certainly seemed not to care that they hadn’t had sex since before Labor Day; and she’d been pointedly deaf to certain urgent personal-grooming and postural hints that Paul had dropped during their photo shoot for L.A. Weekly."

Barney’s Great Adventure

Frank rarely smiles, even when he’s being funny. “There are three lies politicians tell,” he told the real-estate group. “The first is ‘We ran against each other but are still good friends.’ That’s never true. The second is ‘I like campaigning.’ Anyone who tells you they like campaigning is either a liar or a sociopath. Then, there’s ‘I hate to say I told you so.’ ” He went on, “Everybody likes to say ‘I told you so.’ I have found personally that it is one of the few pleasures that improves with age. I can say ‘I told you so’ without taking a pill before, during, or after I do it.”

Crass Warfare

Why Whitney is Lucy, only less lovable:

This may sound like blasphemy to anyone who loves Lucille Ball, the woman who pioneered the classic joke rhythms that Whitney Cummings so klutzily mimics. Cummings has none of Ball’s shining charisma or her buzz of anarchy. Yet she does share Lucy’s rictus grin, her toddler-like foot-stamping tantrums, and especially her Hobbesian view of heterosexual relationships as a combat zone of pranks, bets, and manipulation from below. “This is war,” Whitney announces, before declaring yet another crazy scheme to undercut her boyfriend, and it might as well be the series’ catchphrase.

Backbone

A stand-alone piece of the manuscript that became The Pale King, this story details a young boy's mysterious and doomed obsession.

"During the five weeks that he was disabled with a subluxated T3 vertebra—often in such discomfort that not even his inhaler could ease the asthma that struck whenever he experienced pain or distress—the heady enthusiasm of childhood had given way in the boy to a realization that the objective of pressing his lips to every square inch of himself was going to require maximum effort, discipline, and a commitment sustainable over periods of time that he could not then (because of his age) imagine."

My First Flame

An early take on the dark side of cyberspace:

Like many newcomers to the "net"--which is what people call the global web that connects more than thirty thousand on-line networks--I had assumed, without really articulating the thought, that while talking to other people through my computer I was going to be sheltered by the same customs and laws that shelter me when I'm talking on the telephone or listening to the radio or watching TV. Now, for the first time, I understood the novelty and power of the technology I was dealing with.