REGRETS, I HAVE A FEW

  1. I once told an amazing writer he was all washed up.
    I didn't mean it. We were at a conference and I had just been praising him effusively. He was gracious about the compliments, but admitted to deep insecurity. "What if I'm like Hemingway?" he said. "He wrote all his best work in his 20s, then churned out shit the rest of his life." I shrugged. I sometimes have an unfortunate tendency to deflect raw, vulnerable emotion with a glib joke. "How cool to have something in common with Hemingway!" I said. "Washed up by 30!" He actually flinched. I suck.
  2. I lied to another writer about who I was.
    Ten years ago, I organized a survey for the Book Review asking writers and editors and critics to name the single best work of American fiction since 1980. ("Beloved" won.) The week it came out, I happened to sit next to a novelist on my commute home. I asked if she'd seen the survey and she spent the next 15 minutes attacking it — legitimately enough — as a misguided, cheap, shallow gimmick. Then she asked what I do. "Editor in the business section!" I chirped.
  3. That sofritas burrito from Chipotle.
    Four days of my life, gone.
  4. Killing a seagull.
    He flew right in front of my car, intent on some roadkill, but there's no question I had enough time to brake or swerve. With a microsecond more time to think about it, I'm sure I would have. Instead I told myself that he would naturally fly away again. The thunk of a seagull hitting your grille is louder and more solid than you might think. I feel worse about this because my kids were in the car.
  5. The ones who got away.
    I'm lucky to have worked with some truly incredible writers, and incredible people all around. So why do I fixate on the reviewers who say no? (And who do so for perfectly acceptable reasons, I should add.) Someday I will put out an issue of the Book Review with pieces by Tina Fey and Lorrie Moore and Deborah Eisenberg and @vanzorn and Junot Díaz and George Saunders, and I will sit and read it outside Plato's cave.