Finding books with friends, and Adam Haslett on fear (IMAGINE ME GONE)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

It was meant to be. There Cyndi Reeves and I were, in the lobby of the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, catching up with each other ahead of a Bryn Mawr College sponsored dinner with Phillip Lopate. That was all wonderful enough, but then there came Anmiryam Budner, of Main Point Books, with a box of Better Living Through Criticism, written by A.O. Scott, who was slated to speak at the theater later that night.

A. O. Scott, I said? Really? For I had, not long before, reviewed Better Living for the Chicago Tribune, and, before, that, simply loved reading Scott's movie reviews for the New York Times. A.O. Scott. A literary celebrity.

Two friends, a literary celebrity, dinner plans with the nation's great essayist, and then a conversation with Anmiryam in which she pronounced that the book Cyndi and I must read next (we always ask and she always tells) was Adam Haslett's Imagine Me Gone. Anmiryam is an impassioned book reader, which is what makes her such a stunning book seller. From her lips to our hearts, these books.

Cyndi and I were in. Soon our friend Kelly Simmons was in as well. We'd all buy Haslett's newest, and then we would discuss.

Books and friendship. Like coffee and cream.

Maybe you'll be in, too. Maybe we could all discuss? Because Haslett bears discussion. For now I would like to share with you the most exquisite passage in a book built of exquisite passages—a story about the long-lingering affects of a father's mental unwellness. Here is Michael, the oldest son, who has some of his father's imbalance. He's talking about fear. It's devastating because it's so true.

What do you fear when you fear everything? Time passing and not passing. Death and life. I could say my lungs never filled with enough air, no matter how many puffs of my inhaler I took. Or that my thoughts moved too quickly to complete, severed by a perpetual vigilance. But even to say this would abet the lie that terror can be described, when anyone who's ever known it knows that it has no components but is instead everywhere inside you all the time, until you can recognize yourself only by the tensions that string one minute to the next And yet I keep lying, by describing, because how else can I avoid this second, and the one after it? This being the condition itself: the relentless need to escape a moment that never ends.


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