The American Bardo.

Author:Clinton, Kate
Position:UNPLUGGED
 
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As a standup comic and humorist honored to write for this magazine, I applaud the new bimonthly format. Especially after I looked up "bimonthly" and confirmed it means every two months and not twice a month. Phew. The change allows for more in-depth pieces in the print magazine and more online features. No matter your textual preference, it's a win-win. Or as we LGBTQs used to say, "It gets better."

At first I felt intimidated by the longer lead time. I'd grown accustomed to the comedy world's new success metric: instant feedback. Memes, instagrams, and tweets must be as near to real-time as possible. Woe to those in Facebookistan whose posts have high incident-to-response ratios. Extreme temporal compression can make even Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert's monologues feel so last hour.

A few summers ago, I noticed the time change while working in Provincetown. A lot of news can get broken in ten minutes, and once someone in line for my show shouted, "Can't wait to hear what you've got on that missing Malaysian plane!"

I deeply regret that Ptown replaced the transmitter pole that went down during Hurricane Bob. It used to be that my audiences had been at the beach all day. Without cellphone service, their only news was the gossip of who-did-what-to-whom the night before. If I opened the show with a joke on a day's news item, they had to first process it. Then I had to wait an extra beat while a bunch of relaxed, sunburnt, mildly buzzed people tried to get the joke.

This summer, when I'm not performing in Provincetown or prepping for my "Path of Totality Party" for the total solar eclipse on August 21, I'm planning to read Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.

When Lincoln's beloved third son, Willie, died, he was entombed in Georgetown's Oak Hill Cemetery. Three years later, Lincoln's funeral train took both father's and son's coffins home to Illinois. Willie's three-year after-life in Oak Hill is the Bardo and the subject of Saunders's book.

My friends say the book is historical fiction unlike any they have read. So far, I have only read reviews of the book. Many reviewers spend less time reviewing the book and more time debating the fake news that Lincoln, haunted by the death of his son and in despair over the ongoing Civil War, visited Willie's crypt several times to hold his dead son's body. I, however, have been haunted...

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