One of the gifts my children have given me the last couple of years is a subscription to The Paris Review and the summer 2022 edition arrived last week and I gobbled it up most of all the author interviews one in particular the novelist Sigrid Nunez who I was not familiar with but who I found wonderfully fearless and therefore wonderfully intoxicating so I checked the Garland County library for her New York Times bestselling 2018 National Book Award winning novel The Friend and read it in three sittings because as the Vanity Fair blurb said its “slim but pitch-perfect” which I wholeheartedly agree and now I’m on the lookout for her 2020 bestselling novel What Are You Going Through and while I love discovering new authors and slim but pitch-perfect novels I love even more my children for without their kindness toward their dear old dad my life would somehow be less than in other words not as rich and I’m not just talking about finding new novelists and their novels but mainly my children and their one wild and precious lives.
I love Nunez’s writing because its smart not lazy unlike the link I saw this weekend for someone’s online open letter scree addressed to “Dear White Evangelicals” which is an automatic signal for me to keep on truckin’ because its clear that a) the writer doesn’t consider the addressed as “dear” by any stretch and b) those “white evangelicals” aren’t in that writer’s space in the first place and c) “white evangelicals” is now a phrase used to get a rise out of your fan base which equates to more shares and more likes and more hearts and its lazy unlike this paragraph from Nunez’s novel which sure you could say is an animal altogether different than an open letter but I’m not having any of that today because writing is writing and writing should be fearless and you should know Apollo is a Great Dane:
Watching Apollo sleep. The peaceful rise and fall of his flank. His belly is full, he is warm and dry, he has had a four-mile walk today. As usual when he hunched in the street to do his business I guarded him from passing cars. And, in the park, when a texting jogger bore down on us, Apollo barked and blocked his path before he could run into me. I have played several rounds of tug-of-war with him today. I have talked to him, and sung to him, and read him some poetry. I have trimmed his nails and brushed every inch of his coat. Now, watching him sleep, I feel a surge of contentment. There follows another, deeper feeling, singular and mysterious, yet at the same time perfectly familiar. I don’t know why it takes a full minute for me to name it.
What are we, Apollo and I, if not two solitudes that protect and border and greet each other?
And you should know that last line “two solitudes that protect and border and greet each other” is Rilke’s definition of love which Nunez deftly weaves in her novel alongside references to Flannery O’Connor and Wittgenstein and George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life and which seems a fitting way to merge these streams on a day ringed with the word freedom.
Thank you John. Your gentle processing of life and books and the intersection of the two calms my spirit. I’m paying more attention to what I’m reading and benefiting greatly. The Friend is now on my bookshelf. Thanks to you and your kids,
John, once again, thank you. Not only do I enjoy reading your writing, it inspires me to write.