I regret that not one single bookstore I went into—and believe me, I looked lots, in local independents, independents around the country, chains, EVERY-f-in'-where—had one single copy of the GREAT new book about William Goyen (1915–1983) one of the GREATest writers America has ever produced. The book is Goyen: Autobiographical Essays, Notebooks, Evocations, Interviews, and it's edited by Reginald Gibbons and it's GREAT and should be read by everyone with even the slightest interest in real literature, life, or prose. But—oh no! These bookstore shelves that should have decent biographies and decent personal essays instead are crammed full with crap memoirs about my sad, sad boo-hoo life, my screwed-up family, my wonderful triumph, my blah blah blah me me me uncanny and inspiring survival the prose of which sucks. I mean, can't we at least try to limit that kind of stupid superficial fairy-tale "thinking" to the presidential election? Or at least one less copy of James Frey and one more of Goyen? REBECCA BROWN
Globally speaking, I regret that a few thousand Green Party lefty utopian white folks voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 and helped elect the King of Mediocrity and Mendacity. Locally speaking, I regret that Tim Eyman's parents ever had sex. Personally speaking, I regret that I published two books in the same year and spent far too much time away from my family and far too much time snuggled up close to room-service breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Speaking from a time-travel machine, I regret that third-party candidate Ron Paul took slightly more votes away from the Democrat than he did from the Republican and stranded us with President Huckabee. SHERMAN ALEXIE
I regret not going to Rome. I regret not learning Italian again. I regret not throwing an it's-so-crazy-people-fall-through-glass-tables kind of party this year. I regret that the Etruscans aren't here to set us straight. I regret drinking. I regret not drinking. I regret not thinking. Often. I regret getting loud hiccups during your quiet and meaningful performance. I regret not being the subject of any missed connections. I regret that I must have thousands of plastic bags in my life. I regret that my nephew doesn't know me. I regret being witty but mean. I regret being nearly 33. I regret regretting being nearly 33. I regret that there isn't more snow in my life. I regret that some of these regrets have appeared in previous years. I regret that some of these regrets seem to be settling in for the long haul. REBECCA HOOGS
I regret not finishing Dante's Purgatorio. In spite of being in a group devoted to reading The Divine Comedy, I got stuck at Canto XXII, the Sixth Cornice of the Gluttonous, which sounds appetizing, but like the rest of Purgatorio, runs a bit heavy on the virtue. After the delightful immersive hell experience of Inferno with its perfect punishments of the wicked—eternal whippings for the pimps, lakes of shit for the brownnosers—reading Purgatorio feels like plodding your way to a better life, which of course remains just out of reach. ANNA MARIA HONG
I regret not telling a certain person to go fuck herself. RYAN BOUDINOT
I think it's beyond regrettable—it's awful and ominous—that so many people don't read books in any kind of habitual or curious way. Especially college students. Poor literacy and aliteracy (the choice not to read) are complex, oh yes. It's still a tad troubling when vast swaths of a nation can't appreciate something as fine and subtle as a classic novel. This isn't elitism. A society without strong literacy is like a cake without ingredients. A novelist friend of mine who teaches at a university was leaving class one day, and a student came up to him and said, "So you write books? That's so weird, man, because no one reads anymore." What a sorry kid. STACEY LEVINE
I regret trying to sit next to the author David Shields at a local magazine party. I was unsure if I had violated some unwritten rule that if a person (me) writes a negative review of someone else's (his) work as I had (years ago) that meant: (1) I couldn't sit next to the author; and (2) we couldn't be friends. To clarify the matter, the author David Shields didn't address me, but rather moved to the other side of the room where there wasn't any room for me to sit next to him.
I regret the furniture I broke this year by trying to sit in it. At a Chinese restaurant filled with mass-produced chrome squares affixed to half-circles, I sat in one of these chairs and my ass pushed the chrome square from the top radius of the half-circle to a 45-degree tilt toward the ground. It did so without a sound. After a moment of trying to pass off this broken-furniture incident as if nothing had happened, I realized my angle would draw unwanted attention. I moved to an as-yet-undamaged chair. I regret I didn't report the broken chair to the proprietor. I didn't want to have to pay for it.
I regret my agitation in dealing with successful bureaucrats. At a coffee shop, a bureaucrat smugly informed me that her bureaucracy had nothing to do with me and so I should be silent about the bureaucracy's evictions, property seizing, and document-shredding practices. "Your bureaucracy," I said, "should be rubbed out." I'd been reading a biography of Theodore Roethke and enjoying the poet's manic obsession with the Mafia. At the time, although I enjoyed the ridiculousness of the phrase "rubbed out," I also meant it. If I had a bulldozer, or wrecking ball, or something big enough to knock over the bureaucracy, I'd have used it. MATT BRIGGS
I regret starting but not finishing a stack of fan letters to other writers for their amazing work: Jonathan Raban, John Marshall, Ann Pancake, and Brian Culhane. And I wish I'd gotten to a Subtext reading in their new home. FRANCES McCUE
I regret that I went to Bodies: The Exhibition twice. The first time was fun, like a fifth-grade field trip. I went with my friend from massage school. We identified muscles. We made jokes about the stupid poses of the plasticized people (we called them "mannequins"). In short, we ignored any messy emotional conflicts, like where the bodies came from. But before my return visit to Bodies I read Stiff by Mary Roach, which includes chapters on the seedy history of grave digging, stolen bodies, and traveling cadaver shows. The book ruined my sense of detachment. Lucky thing I got my second ticket free, because I was sick to my stomach the moment I looked at the first pickled-ginger-colored biceps. The crowds were cloying. The bodies haunted me, especially the female cadaver cut sagittally so that her hands looked like lobster claws. I had to bypass the room of dead fetuses, and most of the rest of the pseudoeducational freak show. Weeks later, it seemed fitting that some other visitor to Bodies pocketed a plasticized kidney; I'm sure it was insured for more money than the person whose stolen body it was extracted from ever touched. TRISHA READY
I regret not seizing the moment when I had the chance. I don't mean the time I threw the beer on the editor, I don't regret that. I mean, I'm not sure I would do it again, but the odds are good. I mean the other moment. Not when I kissed the Indian girl on the cheek. That was good. I suppose I could have gone in for more, but she had a boyfriend, she had just told me, and her mother liked him. And she spent her life trying to please her mother. And I certainly don't regret going on the Sex Workers Art Show tour or editing an anthology of political fiction, or letting so many relationships just fall apart and blow away like toothpicks in a wheat field. I don't have regrets there. I mean the other times. I regret the moments I failed to show up, made a phone call instead of coming over, and left early. I regret the moments I don't remember. STEPHEN ELLIOTT