As too often happens, my wispy hair, almost completely gray, was standing up and out at all angles, and I thought of what the spouse has never said: “You are as smart as Einstein. You should look more like him.”

A friend told me, “If your wife laughs at your jokes, you can be sure that you know some good ones or you have a good wife.”

Is this true? “If you believe that God made women without a sense of humor it is because then they could love men without laughing at them.”

Much is said about culture wars, which today seem to center on gender and gender identity. But not long ago we had culture wars about something different—evolution. What has happened to that? Did one side win, and if so, how? Did the anti-science battlers give up? Did the other side conclude that the Bible was literally infallible? Or is that culture war still going on?

“True science teaches, above all, to doubt and be ignorant.” Unamuno.

David Foster Wallace wrote, “I’m not saying that television is vulgar and dumb because the people who compose Audiences are vulgar and dumb. Television is the way it is simply because people tend to be extremely similar in their vulgar and prurient and dumb interests and wildly different in their refined and aesthetic and noble interests.” Is he right?

I was in college when I heard a classmate say that he was going to buy “an ice cream.” I had never heard that phrase before and thought it was silly. You can buy an ice cream cone. You can buy an ice cream bar. You can buy an ice cream sandwich. You can buy a pint of ice cream. You can buy some ice cream. But you can’t buy an ice cream. I hear that expression often, and it still grates.

For most of their history, beliefs of Southern Baptists were firmly antithetical to those of Roman Catholicism. Now increasingly the institutions are allied and similar. For example, when Roe v. Wade was decided, the Southern Baptists were not against legalized abortion. Now that Roe has been overturned, Catholics and Baptists find themselves on the same side of that issue. The Southern Baptists were firmly against public aid to religious schools. Now both institutions seek public moneys for their schools. Southern Baptists were opposed to their churches being involved in politics, but that, too, has changed, and the Baptists are like the Catholics. And now the news indicates a tragic way that Southern Baptists have become more like Catholics. The Department of Justice is investigating widespread sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention and its churches.

The philosopher was right: “You cannot humiliate a hog by throwing mud at him.”

At this time of year I wonder how the ant acquired its reputation for being extremely industrious when so many are on a picnic.

“None preaches better than the ant, and she says nothing.” Benjamin Franklin.

First Sentences

“That Dodge City was the gateway to the Great American Desert probably does not seem to be much of a recommendation for it.” Tom Clavin, Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West.

“The day before Mrs. Starch vanished, her third-period biology students trudged silently, as always, into the classroom.” Carl Hiaasen, Scat.

“It was a foul autumn morning in Jaffa when the pilgrims came out of the church.” Dan Jones: The Templars: The Rise and Fall of God’s Holy Warriors.

“The Government still pays my wages but I no longer think of myself as a bureaucrat.” Gita Mehta, A River Sutra.

“Chief Tecumseh had every right to be vengeful.” Jared Cohen, Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America.

“They are watching me, thought Rupert Stonebird, as he saw the two women walking rather too slowly down the road.” Barbara Pym, An Unsuitable Attachment.

“Enough water, like enough time, can make anything disappear.” Casey Cep, Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and Last Trial of Harper Lee.

“Peter Crowther’s book on the election was already in the shops.” Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty.

“The Great War had brought Paul Lewis into the navy in 1918 as a lieutenant commander, but he never seemed quite at ease when in his uniform.” John M. Barry, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History.

“The ugliest truth, a friend once told Myron, is still better than the prettiest of lies.” Harlan Coben, Live Wire.

“When Michael Joyce of Los Angeles serves, when he tosses the ball and his face rises to track it, it looks like he’s smiling, but he’s not really smiling—his face’s circumoral muscles are straining with the rest of his body to reach the ball at the top of the toss’s rise.” David Foster Wallace, “Tennis Player Michael Joyce’s Professional Artistry as a Paradigm of Certain Stuff about Choice, Freedom, Limitation, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness,” in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments.

“I was never so frightened.” Sarah Waters, Affinity.

“In 1957 legendary CBS newsman Walter Cronkite—lauded as the most trusted man in America—stared into the camera and told viewers that the ‘greatest engineering feat of our time’ was under way.” Dan Egan, The Death and Life of the Great Lakes.

First Sentences

“There are few views that can draw noses to airplane windows like those of the Great Lakes.” Dan Egan, The Death and Life of the Great Lakes.

“By the third night the death count was rising so high and so quickly that many of the divisional homicide teams were pulled off the front lines of riot control and put into emergency rotations in South Central.” Michael Connelly, The Black Box.

“In the haunted summer of 2016, an unaccustomed heat wave struck the Siberian tundra on the edge of what the ancients once called the End of the Land.”  Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.

“The man in dark blue slacks and a forest green sportshirt waited impatiently in the line.” Patricia Highsmith, The Blunderers.

“He had been waiting for the morning, dreading it, aware it couldn’t be stopped.” Karen Abbott, The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz-Age America.

“When he was small, he was often mistaken for a girl.” Denise Giardina, Saints and Villains.

“Fiction writers as a species tend to be oglers.” David Foster Wallace, “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction” in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments.

“I’ve always considered myself to be, basically, a lucky person.” Tana French, The Witch Elm.

“I’ll begin with my own beginnings.” Daniel Okrent, The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics, and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants Out of America.

“Midway between Old Oba-Nnewi Road and New Oba-Nnewi Road, in that general area bound by the village church and the primary school, and Mmiri John Road drops off only to begin again, stood our house in Ojoto.” Chinelo Okparanta, Under the Udala Trees.

“From high up, fifteen thousand feet above, where the aerial photographs are taken, 4121 Wilson Avenue, the address I know best, is minuscule point, a scab of green.” Sarah M. Broom, The Yellow House.

“Iron rails the rusty brown of old blood cut across a cracked paved road that leads into the Lowcountry.” Patricia Cornwell, Red Mist.

“Throughout the night of Friday, September 7, 1900, Isaac Monroe Cline found himself waking to a persistent sense of something gone wrong.” Erik Larson, Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History.

First Sentences

“Somewhere in the dark years between Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland and the turn of the Second World War’s tide, Wystan Hugh Auden returned to his childhood faith.” Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.

“It was not that he didn’t remember he once had another sort of life.” Gao Xingjian, One Man’s Bible (translated by Mabel Lee.)

“My strongest memory is not a memory.” Tara Westover, Educated.

 “The explosion took place two minutes after Elishva, the old woman known as UMM Daniel, or Daniel’s mother, boarded the bus.” Ahmed Saadawi, Frankenstein in Baghdad.

 “Despite being the official retreat of American presidents, Camp David is a curiously bare and rustic facility.” Michael J. Mazarr, Leap of Faith: Hubris, Negligence, and America’s Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy.

“The nights are so pleasant in Caulfield.” Cornell Woolrich, I Married a Dead Man.

“Tuesday, September 16, 2008, was the ‘day after Lehman.’” Adam Tooze, Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World.

“Her journey from Alton to Springfield should have taken no longer than two days, but as the stage driver himself said, ‘That’s no more ‘n a hope.’” Louis Bayard, Courting Mr. Lincoln.

 “In 1926, there were countless ways to die in an airplane.” Keith O’Brien, Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History.

 “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca.

“I think of the old football press boxes first, the ones where you’d look up from scribbling in your notebook and find a guy in the crowd staring at you through the window, probably wondering if it was your story that made him choke on his cornflakes the other morning.” John Schulian, Football: Great Writing About the National Sport.

“Word came today: four lines squeezed on a three-by-five.” Richard Powers, The Gold Bug Variations.

“When I left my boxed township of Illinois farmland to attend my dad’s alma mater in the lurid jutting Berkshires of western Massachusetts, I all of a sudden developed a jones for mathematics.” David Foster Wallace, “Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley,” in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments.