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OPENING ACTS

''Like so many people in Prairie City, my face has been subjected to a kind of wind that blows in so hard from the north that you find yourself reaching for a tree in order to stay on the ground, only to realize there are no trees, just an ocean of grass.'' -- From the first chapter of Meghan Daum's first novel about a New Yorker-turned-Nebraskan, THE QUALITY OF LIFE REPORT (Viking, $24.95)

''Years of indoctrination and relentless training shut away any doubts that might have lingered outside the vacuum-sealed windows of the brand-new plane, that they could lose, that they were just organisms of wingless flesh flying against the wishes of God in a gigantic piece of galvanized tin, a folly held together by a mathematical equation of physics they had never paid attention to in boring math classes, written by a nerd with horn-rimmed glasses they had outrun on the playground and only picked for the team because they felt sorry for him.'' -- From the first chapter of Andrew Huebner's novel about the first Persian Gulf War, WE PIERCE (Simon & Schuster, $24)

Originally posted May 23, 2003 Published in issue #711 May 23, 2003 Order article reprints
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