Reading Mindfully: T. Coraghessan Boyle’s “Are We Not Men?”

Reading Mindfully: T. Coraghessan Boyle’s “Are We Not Men?”

Each month, we offer you a chance to read mindfully, using literature to think about your perceptions and reactions to the world in which we live and work. Through these short texts and accompanying questions, we hope to give you a small taste of Books@Work. Please grab a friend or colleague to read, share and discuss – and send us your thoughts.

T. Coraghessan Boyle’s prolific literary career spans over three decades and twenty-six books of fiction. His work has earned numerous accolades including multiple O. Henry Awards for his short stories and a PEN/Faulkner Award for his novel World’s End. His prose, writes The Paris Review, is “lush, manic, overblown, satiric, highly imaginative and, on occasion, shamelessly melodramatic.” His short story “Are We Not Men?” was published in the November 2016 issue of The New Yorker.

As you read the story, consider these questions:

  • If you could “choose” your child’s genetic makeup, would you do it?
  • Why do we care so deeply and invest so much in our children’s success?
  • How much do we owe our accomplishments to our parents versus our own natural abilities?

Are We Not Men?

By T. Coraghessan Boyle

The dog was the color of a maraschino cherry, and what it had in its jaws I couldn’t quite make out at first, not until it parked itself under the hydrangeas and began throttling the thing. This little episode would have played itself out without my even noticing, except that I’d gone to the stove to put the kettle on for a cup of tea and happened to glance out the window at the front lawn. The lawn, a lush blue-green that managed to hint at both the turquoise of the sea and the viridian of a Kentucky meadow, was something I took special pride in, and any wandering dog, no matter its chromatics, was an irritation to me. The seed had been pricey—a blend of Chewings fescue, Bahia, and zoysia incorporating a gene from a species of algae that allowed it to glow under the porch light at night—and, while it was both disease- and drought-resistant, it didn’t take well to foot traffic, especially four-footed traffic.

Continue reading the story in The New Yorker.

Image: Marc Chagall, Creation of World, 1971, [Fair Use] via

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Maredith Sheridan

Maredith Sheridan

Maredith Sheridan is a Development Communications Associate at the Cleveland Orchestra and a part-time member of the Books@Work team. She continues to write posts for our blog.