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You may not have read George Saunders' 2005 novella, "The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil," which was not as widely acclaimed as his two short-story collections, "Pastoralia" and "CivilWarLand in Bad Decline," both New York Times Notable Books. But the haunting and dryly hilarious opening sentence from "Phil" provides a glimpse of Saunders' eccentric genius and his …

Our year of firsts turned into our year of lasts this week, as kindergarten drew to a close. The first bus ride, the first day of school, the first cafeteria lunch, the first show-and-tell, the first field trip . . . they all are memories now. Our 6-year-old -- now seasoned at these things -- today begins her first official summer vacation. "Mom, yesterday was our la…

SELECTED ESSAYS By JOHN BERGER PANTHEON 588 PAGES, $35 THE SHAPE OF A POCKET By JOHN BERGER PANTHEON 264 PAGES, $24 "When my father died recently," wrote John Berger in the 1972 essay "Drawn to That Moment," "I did several drawings of him in his coffin, drawings of his face and head." He then immediately tells us an anecdote about the listless life d…

DICK ENBERG walked into the Genesee Bar at the Hyatt last week dressed in a three-piece outfit. It wasn't a suit. With his three layers of shirts and sweatshirts on, the unpretentious NBC play-by-play announcer could have been mistaken for any Western New Yorker about to head outdoors. And that is probably why he is so successful. Despite his hefty salary and all of …