April 28, 1975

The city teetered in a dream state. Helen walked down the deserted street. The quiet was eerie. Time running out. A long-handled barber’s razor, cradled in the nest of its strop, lay on the ground, the blade’s metal grabbing the sun. Unable to resist, she leaned down to pick it up, afraid someone would split his foot open running across it. A crashing noise down the street distracted her — dogs overturning garbage cans — and she snatched blind at the razor. Drawing her hand back, a bright pinprick of blood swelled on her finger. She cursed at her stupidity and kicked the razor, strop and all, to the side of the road and hurried on.

Is it true that to avoid outside distractions while writing, you wore earplugs, noise-canceling headphones, had the ethernet port of your computer physically sealed, and at one point even wore a blindfold as you touch-typed?

Uh, I think that was Jonathan Franzen.


LotusEatersI was working in Manhattan on September 11, 2001. After the towers fell, the only person in our office who didn’t seem numb or scared or uncomprehending was a gentleman who, of his own volition, calmly ventured into the street to get sandwiches for the whole staff.