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A thousand generations live in you now. See Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in theaters December 20.

James Bond 007 No time to die 2020 Daniel Craig, Rami Malek

Trailers in 2020


tudying fiction, I’ve long realized that the better the writing, the more discipline its examination will require. At heart, writers are of course readers, and when I’m studying a text, here’s the scenario of how it all breaks down in my head: my reader-self is on a date with the story, and my writer-self is there, too, tagging along, a third-wheel chaperone, scrutinizing the story’s every move.

My reader-self and the story both really want my writer-self to GTF out of there so the story and I can get busy already.

Great writing is almost petty that way: ‘You’re a writer, too, huh? Bet I can make you forget all about that in less than five pages.’

Occasionally this happens, if the date can manage to be engrossing enough, or charming enough, I can just be reading. (When I realize this has occurred, the greatest delight is turning back the pages to try to pinpoint just when the spell began to work, and how). Great writing is almost petty that way: You’re a writer, too, huh? Bet I can make you forget all about that in less than five pages.

The number of times I had to do this while reading Nick White’s impeccable collection Sweet & Low — stop, go back, figure out how the hell I got hypnotized when I was so focused on staying alert and peeking behind the curtain of White’s craft — is both delightful and embarrassing. I’ve already learned so much from it, and I’m going to learn so much more, but it’s going to take me a while. As a writer, and as a reader, it really doesn’t get any better than that.

The following story, “Lady Tigers,” which appears in the collection, contains many of the book’s recurring themes, though from story to story they unfold in wildly different contexts to show us just how subjective, swirling, and multifaceted any truth can be. Firstly, there are characters in over their heads: Rusty, a high school senior who drives a bus for the Lady Tigers baseball team and has a crush on the team’s new coach, who is also his English teacher. Rusty’s mom, a Virginia Slim-smoking straight-shooter who informs Rusty that his father has “skedaddled.” Rusty’s dad, the Lady Tigers’ former coach, whose absence was precipitated by an admission of sexual impropriety with one of the players. The new coach, who writes poetry and has transformed a once champion team into one with zero season wins.

There’s also the landscape of the Delta, big and wild and unpredictable, hurting and loving the characters without warning, not unlike a parent. There’s the understanding that, totally separate of religion, being reminded of something religious can be incredibly important, too. There’s the unfairness of disaster, and the human push-back against chaos. There’s vulnerability, and most of all, there’s care. I care about White’s characters after I meet them. They are engrossing. They are charming.

They’ll make you forget it isn’t you on the date. Which is really the whole point of any great story.

I am so grateful to Nick White for making me a reader. Every time.