Fiction Pick of the Week: "Public Debt"

David Hosack attends to a mortally wounded Alexander Hamilton.

Read more

"Hosack felt a hitching panic build, his instincts wound too tightly, overtaxed, a clockwork spring about to snap. Only Hamilton could do this to him. The frame prone before him was frail, narrow, woman-small. His coat, waistcoat, shirt, underclothes sopping him up, holding him together. Delicate embroidery sodden, delicate fingers cold with the loss of blood. Hosack had seen this man’s blood before, and the blood and vomit and delirious fever-dreams of his wife, his children. But this was—Hosack sickened, the scene before him tilting. Three years before—Hamilton’s son, Phillip, bleeding out after his own duel on the same Weehawken site. Their faces so alike, their mangled bodies. Their right sides."

Michael Jordan, in general

A brief history of the world and the late 1990s Chicago Bulls.

"This is the version of him that has no future or past. No ex-wife or kids, no off-court life. He lives in the United Center. He doesn't fuss with food or water. There are whole months in the air, between the floor and the rim. This moment of quiet and loud gets stuck on repeat. Michael Jordan shoots, swishes, but a lot of times he just stands, lit. An occasional swivel. Rotates like a figurine. Television size. He could dribble his basketball in the palm of your hand."

Pafko At the Wall [Excerpt]

The beginning of Don DeLillo's Underworld, in memory of Andy Pafko.

"Pafko is out of paper range by now, jogging toward the clubhouse. But the paper keeps falling. If the early paper waves were slightly hostile and mocking, and the middle waves a form of fan commonality, then this last demonstration has a softness, a selfness. It is coming down from all points, laundry tickets, envelopes swiped from the office, there are crushed cigarette packs and sticky wrap from ice-cream sandwiches, pages from memo pads and pocket calendars, they are throwing faded dollar bills, snapshots torn to pieces, ruffled paper swaddles for cupcakes, they are tearing up letters they've been carrying around for years pressed into their wallets, the residue of love affairs and college friendships, it is happy garbage now, the fans' intimate wish to be connected to the event, unendably, in the form of pocket litter, personal waste, a thing that carries a shadow of identity -- rolls of toilet tissue unbolting lyrically in streamers."

Angel Wings

An oral history of a murdered prep basketball star.

"All I can think is how narrow the drive-through is and how it's full of exhaust and grease and the vent where the air blows out and how they couldn't move, couldn't go backward or forward 'cause there were five LAPD cars and how Tenerife must have been trying to call me. Trying. I just took two more. I know I had some wine. I don't care."

Scavengers In the Boneyard

While being stripped and sold, old ships reflect on their long histories and the generations of men associated with them.

"But we were the ones they came back to, dawn after dawn, year after year. We were the ones who brought them home, hoary and frail, to Snug Harbor. The nurses tucked them into wooden wheelchairs. They spent the landlocked hours making models of us in bottles, the Nellie P. and the Golden Eagle, the Sallie Ann and the Spirit of Victory. Hunched between the wall with the clock and the wall with the crucifix, they assembled us from memory. Their fingers traced each narrow bottleneck. They slipped inside as far as they could reach."

Birds With Teeth

Two nineteenth century paleontologists, once friends and colleagues, become bitter enemies.


"But years ago, there was room for friendship. They talked for hours at Haddonfield, grinning in helpless academic passion and exclaiming at their own twin hearts. They ate breakfast together on a heap of rock in the marl pits, black bread and coffee as the sun swam into the sky. Cope in shirtsleeves, a boy's face, looking more like Marsh's son than his contemporary."

An Odd Bird

When U.S. customs law met abstract art in the form of a bird, “shimmering and soaring toward the ceiling while the lawyers debated whether it was an ‘original sculpture’ or a metal ‘article or ware not specially provided for’ under the 1922 Tariff Act.”