Almost exactly 20 years ago, I arrived in Los Angeles in the month of June. I had received my doctorate from UC Berkeley in May and had turned 26 in February. That summer, I found a small apartment in Silver Lake and began preparing for a new career as a professor at USC. I look back on myself with bemusement and sympathy, for there were many things I did not know when I was 26. My naiveté protected me when I sat down to write at my small kitchen table and in that hot, stifling, first summer in Los Angeles and began a short story collection. If I had known that it would take me 17 years to finish that collection, and three more years to publish it, perhaps I never would have even begun.