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“The Female Body,” by Margaret Atwood

I agree, it’s a hot topic. But only one? Look around, there’s a wide range. Take my own, for instance. I get up in the morning. My topic feels like hell. I sprinkle it with water, brush parts of it, rub it with towels, powder it, add lubricant. I dump in the fuel and away goes my topic, my topical topic, my controversial topic, my capacious topic, my limping topic, my nearsighted topic, my topic with back problems, my badly-behaved topic, my vulgar topic, my outrageous topic, my aging topic, my topic that is out of the question and anyway still can’t spell, in its oversized coat and worn winter boots, scuttling along the sidewalk as if it were flesh and blood, hunting for what’s out there, an avocado, an alderman, an adjective, hungry as ever.

“Marilyn and the Literati,” by Jeffrey Meyers

Marilyn was a kind of touchstone for writers. Unsure of her own identity, she identified with others. She was warmly responsive to those who showed an interest in her, and the best authors appreciated her human qualities. The Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov was as handsome and sophisticated as Nikita Khrushchev was coarse and crude. He met Marilyn at a Hollywood party while he was working on the screenplay of Lolita in the spring of 1960, and examined her as if she were one of his exquisite butterflies. Stacy Schiff wrote that “in Vladimir’s recollection, ‘She was gloriously pretty, all bosom and rose’—and holding the hand of [her current lover] Yves Montand. Monroe took a liking to Vladimir, inviting the [Nabokovs] to a dinner, which they did not attend.

“A System of Wheels,” by Tennessee Williams

The evenings were ghastly. Miriam fancied that he was persecuting her in all manner of ways. For one thing he was deceiving her about the size of his paycheck. Also he was having affairs with other women. One of these fictitious paramours of Anthony’s was the church-organist. At this suggestion Anthony was particularly horrified, for the musician to whom his wife referred was a stout woman of forty-odd with a goiter.