The Promo Photo for the HBO show the Undoing, paired with the text for the essay, When Willy K. Frolicked and I Shoveled His Snow, and a photo of Pietro Di Donato.

What the HBO Show and an obscure 1963 essay in an adult men’s magazine have to do with each other.

SPOILER ALERT: While I don’t think this piece contains any spoilers for the show, I would recommend not reading it if you have not seen the show or plan to in the future.

On its surface, the HBO limited series “The Undoing” is a classic psychological thriller and whodunit. But as we’re strung along from episode to episode, thinking we know who killed the young Elena Alvez one minute and changing our minds the next, we’re also confronted by the inequalities and privilege that become clear when economic status and ethnicity converge. The injustice this breeds is most apparent when…

Photo by Travis Yewell on Unsplash

In a Pandemic, the Songs We Loved as Kids May Save Us As Adults

I had a moment while shopping in a Publix a couple of months into the pandemic. I was wearing a mask, as were most customers, and shopping for many of the things I often get at this one particular store. Bread, milk, broccoli rabe, crushed tomatoes, sardines. The usual things. But the experience was disorienting. I hadn’t really adjusted yet to the markings on the floor indicating which direction to walk down an aisle. I was nervous passing another customer with my cart. I couldn’t help noticing the people without masks. I was hesitant to talk with the produce person…


Sometimes the only reason you need to start something is to see if you can finish it. That was the main reason I started the #InstagramBookProject 40 days ago. My goal was simple: take a photo of a book in my collection; share it on Instagram with a short post about what it means to me; repeat 39 more times. I did it. It feels good.

When I started the project, I didn’t feel good. In mid-February, I got into a bad bicycling accident that left me with a concussion and a directive to go easy on my brain and…

Still from Frank Borzage’s 1932 adaptation of A Farewell to Arms.

There is an oft-quoted line from Ernest Hemingway’s novel, A Farewell to Arms:

The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one.

The problem with this quote is that it’s not entirely accurate. The real quote is:

“The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one?”

It’s a question, asked as part of a larger conversation between the book’s narrator, Frederic Henry, and his lover, Catherine Barkley. They are quarreling, as lovers do, and she says, “If anything comes between us, we’re gone and then they have us.”

This exchange follows. Frederic first:

“They won’t get us,” I…

Joe Pagetta

Museum professional, arts writer and personal essayist whose writing has appeared in America: The Jesuit Review, Chapter 16, Wordpeace, Ovunque Siamo and more.

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