Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction

Also Edited by Lex Williford and Michael Martone

The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction


Macauley’s Thumb


Michael Martone: Fictions




The Flatness and Other Landscapes


The Blue Guide to Indiana


Seeing Eye: Stories




Fort Wayne Is Seventh on Hitler’s List


A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
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New York, NY 10020


Copyright © 2007 by Lex Williford and Michael Martone


All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsover. For information address Touchstone Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020


continuation of the copyright page.


TOUCHSTONE and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.


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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Touchstone anthology of contemporary creative nonfiction : work from 1970 to the present / [edited by Lex Williford and Michael Martone].
      p. cm.
    “A Touchstone Book.”
    1. American essays — 20th century. 2. American essays — 21st century. 3. Reportage literature, American. 4. English essays — 20th century. 5. English essays — 21st century. 6. Reportage literature, English. I. Williford, Lex, 1954–. II. Martone, Michael.
PS688.T68 2007
814′.5408 — dc22



ISBN-10: 1-4165-4511-5
ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-4511-8


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The editors would like to thank editors Cherise Davis and Meghan Stevenson for their hard work and advocacy for this anthology. Putting the anthology together took much longer than any of us expected — problems with crashed computers, software, long negotiations over authors’ permissions, and the like — and we appreciate their patience in the face of delays in fast-approaching production deadlines. We’d also like to thank Jeff Wilson, executive director of contracts at Simon & Schuster, for his calm and generous support with permissions and contracts, as well as Amit Ghosh and his terrific BorderSenses Technology team ( — Javier Sanchez, Ernesto Flores, and Edevaldo Orozco — who designed the website and the survey’s complex databases, administered the surveys, and then compiled all the data for simpleminded literary types who can barely add up a column of numbers.

Thanks also go to Scott Russell Sanders for his marvelous introduction and the many distinguished teaching writers who took time out of their busy summers — the only time many of them could write — to take our survey: Diana Abu-Jaber, Laurie Alberts, Marcia Aldrich, Rilla Askew, Christopher Bakken, Kim Barnes, Helen Barolini, Randolph Bates, David Borofka, Andrea Hollander Budy, Bobby Byrd, David Carkeet, Kelly Grey Carlisle, Christopher Chambers, Kelly Cherry, Rita Ciresi, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, Burke Davis, Jeffrey DeLotto, Janet Desaulniers, Julie Edelson, David Galef, Albert Garcia, Gaynell Gavin, Denise Gess, Tod Goldberg, Benjamin Grossberg, Marian Haddad, J. C. Hallman, Jane Hammons, Janet Heller, Richard Hoffman, Noy Holland, Sonya Huber, T. R. Hummer, Laura Kasischke, Patricia Kirkpatrick, Wayne Koestenbaum, Martin Lammon, David Leavitt, Sara Levine, Paul Lisicky, Elizabeth Macklin, Lee Martin, Richard McCann, Thomas McConnell, Margaret McMullan, Gregory McNamee, Bart Midwood, Kathleen Volk Miller, Kyle Minor, Roger Mitchell, Dinty W. Moore, Patricia Murphy, James Nolan, Judith Pascoe, Joe Ashby Porter, Lynn Powell, Lia Purpura, Keith Ratzlaff, John Repp, Kathryn Rhett, Natania Rosenfeld, Margaret Rozga, Andrew Schelling, Marc Sheehan, Sue Silverman, Linda Simone, Floyd Skloot, Ron Smith, Angela Sorby, David St. John, Maureen Stanton, Martin Steingesser, Judith Strasser, Pia Taavila, David Taylor, Richard Terrill, Jessica Treat, Lee Upton, Martha Vertreace-Doody, G. C. Waldrep, Charlotte Walker, Gabriel Welsch, Tom Whalen, Laurance Wieder, Chris Willerton, Paul Winner, and Mark Wunderlich.

Lucky for us, work by many of these same distinguished writers also appears in this anthology, not because they nominated their own work or had friends nominate it for them but because their work is powerful and important.

Without these and other authors, such an anthology as this would never have been possible. Although permissions costs have doubled and even tripled over the last decade, authors, their agents, and their publishers were willing to receive the same low permissions fee to keep the cost of this anthology affordable. We thank them all.

For interested writers who have published at least three essays in nationally distributed literary magazines, please email [email protected], and we’ll add your name to our database so you may participate in surveys for any future editions.




by Scott Russell Sanders


Jo Ann Beard
The Fourth State of Matter


Wendell Berry
Getting Along with Nature


Eula Biss
The Pain Scale


Mary Clearman Blew
The Unwanted Child


Charles Bowden
Torch Song


Janet Burroway
Embalming Mom


Kelly Grey Carlisle
Physical Evidence


Anne Carson
The Glass Essay


Bernard Cooper


Michael W.Cox


Annie Dillard
Living Like Weasels


Mark Doty
Return to Sender


Brian Doyle


Tony Earley
Somehow Form a Family


Anthony Farrington


Harrison Candelaria Fletcher
The Beautiful City of Tirzah


Diane Glancy
Sun Dance


Lucy Grealy


William Harrison
Present Tense Africa


Robin Hemley
Reading History to My Mother


Adam Hochschild
World on a Hilltop


Jamaica Kincaid
A Small Place


Barbara Kingsolver
High Tide in Tucson


Ted Kooser
Small Rooms in Time


Sara Levine
The Essayist is Sorry for Your Loss


E.J. Levy
Mastering the Art of French Cooking


Phillip Lopate
Portrait of My Body


Barry Lopez


Thomas Lynch
The Undertaking


Lee Martin


Rebecca Mcclanahan


Erin Mcgraw
Bad Eyes


John Mcphee
The Search for Marvin Gardens


Brenda Miller
The Date


Dinty W. Moore
Son of Mr. Green Jeans


Kathleen Norris
Celibate Passion


Naomi Shihab Nye
This is Not Who We Are


Lia Purpura
Autopsy Report


Richard Rhodes
Watching the Animals


Bill Roorbach
Shitdiggers, Mudflats, and the Worm Men of Maine


David Sedaris
Repeat After Me


Richard Selzer


Sue William Silverman
The Pat Boone Fan Club


Floyd Skloot
A Measure of Acceptance


Lauren Slater
Black Swans


Cheryl Strayed
The Love of My Life


Amy Tan
Mother Tongue


Ryan Van Meter
If You Knew Then What I Know Now


David Foster Wallace
Consider the Lobster


Joy Williams




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