The vase had once been a fine antique with a cream glaze and blue Japanese design, but now it was damaged. It stood amid the finer pieces, a mass of cracks, crudely glued together with what was obviously the wrong type of adhesive—everywhere the 20 or so pieces met one another, glue had bubbled out yellow as it dried, creating the effect of scabrous scars.“Why don’t you get rid of that one?” I asked my mother. “Never,” she replied. “It’s the most valuable piece of pottery we have in this house.” Then she told me the story of the cracked vase.
When my daughter was in grade school, her teacher included a unit on table manners. The rule that amused me was, “When served food, you should never ask, ‘What is this?’” I don’t think I’ve asked that question aloud, but I’ve certainly thought it, especially at potlucks.
Truth in fiction: Fiction often captures a historical moment. Already a number of novels have appeared that deal with the 9/11 terrorist attacks and their aftermath: John Updike, Terrorist; Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; Jay McInerney, The Good Life; and Lorraine Adams, Harbor (Chicago Tribune, July 15).