Julian Barnes’ memoir of grief for the death of his wife Pat Kavanagh in 2008 after a thirty-year relationship, must be one of the most moving tributes ever paid to a loved one, but also the most oblique. So let’s start with something simple, a photograph. Look up the title in the Daily Mail of London, partly for the marvelously-titled review “Lifted by Love, Grounded by Grief” by Craig Brown, but mostly for the photograph that accompanies it. Julian is seated. Pat stands behind him, her arms around his shoulders, her chin resting on the crown of his head. Her love is obvious, she whom Barnes refers to as “The heart of my life; the life of my heart.” But equally striking is the unusual vertical composition. Pat, who on the ground was a small woman beside the gangling Barnes, here appears above him, like a guardian angel reaching down.
In his running journal-cum-memoir, WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING , titled in obvious homage to Raymond Carver, Haruki Murakami claims that â€śpeople basically become runners because theyâ€™re meant toâ€ť â€“I know exactly what he means. Runners are different; if only for the fact they think nothing of doubling up socks to run in 20-degree weather while incredulous spouses look on; they brave downpours for the bliss of having paths to themselves; they passionately debate the relative merits of Body Glide vs. Vaseline, bare feet vs. high-tech shoes, real food vs. GU gels. Runners know itâ€™s possible, even enjoyable, to be alone for hours, pushing themselves â€śto acquire a voidâ€ť and these quirks of temperament are often enough to form a bond with other distance runners.
LET’S TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME is, at its core, a love story. Itâ€™s a story of how a close connection with a friend can ground us and provide us with a life worth living. And itâ€™s a story that any woman who has ever had a friend who is like a sister â€“ I count myself among those fortunate women â€“ will understand in a heartbeat.
There is that question we asked one another in college: Who in history, if you could meet and talk to whomever you wished, would you select?… Reading Lipskyâ€™s book, ALTHOUGH OF COURSE YOU END UP BEING YOURSELF, reads like a contemporary answer to the â€śwho would you chooseâ€ť hypothesis. Wallace is gone now, but what if you could just spend a few days with him, even a few hours? What was the man like, really? By his work, he will be remembered. But what of the man?
rief is, by and large, a private and intimate thing. We utter a few platitudes and then turn away in discomfort from who are laid bare by their grief. And emotionally, we begin to withdraw.
Francisco Goldman shatters those boundaries in his devastating book Say Her Name, forcing the reader to pay witness to the exquisite and blinding pain of a nearly unbearable loss. He positions the reader as a voyeur in a most intimate sadness, revealing the most basic nuances and details and the most complex ramifications of the loss of someone dear. And in the process, he captures our attention, rather like Samuel Coleridgeâ€™s Ancient Mariner, until the reader is literally as fascinated and transfixed with Aura Estrada â€“ Francisco Goldmanâ€™s young and doomed wife â€“ as he himself is. It is a masterful achievement, hard to read, hard to pull oneself away from.
Born in 1917 to a prominent New York City family â€“ all eight great-grandparents were natives and resided within blocks of each other â€“ Auchincloss belonged to an insular, elite group that, over the course of his 92 years, furnished him with material for some 60 books. This memoir, completed shortly before his death a year ago, was his last.