Author Archives: Michael Pocalyko

As We Remember John

In any great age there are only a few great men.  I knew one of them. John Whitehead died twenty days ago at home in New York. When someone dies at the age of 92 it’s easier to celebrate his life than to grieve. But for me this last couple of weeks has proven to be reflective. I hadn’t seen him in over a year. I wasn’t one of his close confidants. I was a friend, kind of a touchstone friend, but with John there Continue reading →


I was born in Bethlehem. On Christmas Eve. There was a star. Absolutely, literally true. Those statements show how deceptive the whole truth can be. It’s all about context. Here’s the context: I am from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and escaped—that was definitely the way I thought of it—in the mid-1970s. This small city, a wonderful place to be from and in which we prospered abundantly as kids, was steeply declining then with the wheezing last gasps of American Big Industry, led locally by the decline and Continue reading →

Owls Made of Shells

I am getting ready to prune my library. This hygienic effort is necessary every few years unless you are the kind of person—we all know a few—who is a first-rank bibliohoarder. I am not one of those. Somewhere I read a bon mot to the effect that actually reading books should not get in the way of collecting them. I am also not a particularly conscientious book collector, although I used to be one. In my library now, aggregation seems to occur spontaneously with no Continue reading →

Master Class

So there I was, just like Rodney Dangerfield. Remember that movie?  “Listen, Sherlock! While you were tucked away up here working on your ethics, I was out there busting my hump in the REAL world.” Only my students were born a decade after Back to School came out. Maybe I should explain. At Muhlenberg College last week I played the role of old grad coming home, novelist in the classroom. I was a student there a whole lifetime ago. It’s the place where I actually Continue reading →