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RYAN DENNIS

Ryan Dennis is the son of a New York dairy farmer and a literary writer whose early essays were originally published in Progressive Dairyman.

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Of all the things a place can be known for – famous bands, art museums, sports teams – the small town of Geel, Belgium, is world-renowned for its mentally impaired residents. In the center of the village stands St. Dymphna’s church, supposedly containing the saint’s remains.

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“I would like a wurst,” I said in German.

The vendor’s face immediately changed. She now scowled. She pointed at the register and held up two fingers. I gave her a two-euro coin. She didn’t say thank you.

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In the opening scene of Death and Nightingales, Beth is awoken by the bawling of a distressed animal. While in some ways it may be the call of the beast inside her, it is also, in actual terms, a cow with bloat.

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It’s the price one pays for having friends. Last year I got weddinged.

It happens to many people: You hit that age when all of your friends are getting married, and suddenly your calendar is filled with nothing but ceremonies and receptions.

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Sometime in early December, the municipal leaders will put up the town’s Christmas decorations in Galway, Ireland, where I’m living again. The official launch of the season is not dictated by the Thanksgiving holiday; the beginning of the month is as natural a starting place as any other.

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The first adult book I read was Riding for the Brand by Louis L’Amour. I was 12. Afterward, I read anything with cowboys, guns and a high sense of justice, writing book reports on Zane Grey and pushing aside homework for Larry McMurty.

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