It’s often said that words are slippery things. Sometimes, though, even the most evanescent words — spoken in an instant, then falling away into silence — are stickier than might be intended, with consequences that far outlast the utterance. Sometimes, words that are written down for posterity end up giving permanence to transient things they capture inadvertently, and sometimes, as fleeting as they may be, they are able to revive the presence of people who were lost a long time ago. Each of these dozen stories pivots on the very particular use of words: not just to represent or respond to the world, but instead to reshape it.

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