Made in USA

September 11, 2001, has joined the short list of dates—December 7, 1941; November 22, 1963—that every American is supposed to remember what he was doing when he heard the news.  I learned of the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center as I was sitting on my screened porch, listening to the newsless propaganda from NPR (I like Bob Edwards, because he is loyal to his hometown of Louisville) and staring out past my seven-foot-high hedges at the yellow school buses that were lining up at the corner.  

A few weeks earlier, when the first buses, fresh with new paint, spelled the return of autumn, I had experienced a disturbing aperçu, a flashback, perhaps, to the 60’s, and I saw the line of yellow buses as so many train cars carrying prisoners to a concentration camp, where they would be stripped of their humanity and told to bless the re-educators who destroyed their minds.  Every morning, I had the same hallucination, in which the rowdy children were turned into hopeless and world-weary detainees, and every morning I thought to myself: This is how it begins, and within a few years I will be ready to replace Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory.

To preserve what is left of the sanity it is widely assumed I have never had, I started work on a novel in the form of a diary written by a man who has been cursed with the ability to see things as they really are—much...

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