In the economy of gossip, confession is the platinum card. The fact that it's almost always expedient and self-serving doesn't detract from its potency as human drama. We confess to a priest to gain absolution, to a therapist to facilitate healing, to the police in the hope that it will mitigate criminal prosecution. We confess so someone will stop beating the soles of our feet. I've confessed to unspeakable things simply so someone would allow me to go back to sleep. But whatever the purpose, confessions tend to be theatrical, hyped up with suspense and often desperation, and always—and most important—shame. Shame is the absolute indispensable essence of confession. And that's what's stopped me in the past from confessing.

— Mark Leyner

Mark's latest novel is The Tetherballs of Bougainville.

My big mistake was breast reconstruction. Of course I'm smart enough to know that tits don't matter. But after a radical mastectomy in 1999, I went through the whole delightful drill of chemo and radiation. And through the months of treatment, I had this notion that when it was over I would have breast reconstruction. What I had in mind was two small implants. Exactly why I thought this was a good idea, I can no longer remember, but I can tell you that walking around with one large breast and a prosthetic is damned awkward.

— Molly Ivins

Molly is the author of Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush.

I was in the third grade when I first discovered the power of confession. All at once I was overwhelmed by a shattering sense of guilt. It was, I know now, a pure guilt: That is, I had no fear of retribution; I knew that teasing wasn't, strictly speaking, a punishable offense; nor did I believe in an afterlife in which I would suffer for my crime. All I knew was that I had been cruel to someone who was innocent and younger than myself.

— Novelist Francine Prose

Francine's most recent work is Blue Angel.

There's a saying (I'm sure you've heard it): It's the things you don't do in life that you regret. Well, I'm here to tell you: That's a big lie. Sometimes I'll be walking down the street, and I'll suddenly think of one of any number of Mr. Wrongs, the ones I didn't go to bed with. The thought of all the grief I've saved myself fills me with an exhilaration like helium; I haven't had a man, but I've had the whole world instead. It's a feeling they don't sing songs or make movies about, but it's real all the same.

— Laura Miller

Laura is the editor of The Salon.Com Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors.


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