Saturday, April 04, 2015


It was February and I was finishing Heidi Julavits's The Folded Clock on the train home from Philadelphia after a visit to sit with my mother by the side of her dear companion Jim Kilik during his final days in the ICU at Hahnemann. I was all at sixes and sevens: I came across a passage that shocked me with its aptness to my mother's situation, I am not sure if tears were actually rolling down my face or not but I think they probably were, and then somehow I left the ARC on the train and was thwarted in my compulsion to post the passage on my blog!

Heidi is my friend and neighbor and kindly gave me another copy so that I could post this unforgettable passage (it is about why we gossip about other people's relationships - and by now the book is actually out and I could have bought a replacement copy, I have not been on top of things):
The day's tagline was a simple one. One of three things would happen to us: we would stay married, or we would leave, or we would be left. We are in our forties, and this is what our futures have winnowed down to, these three possibilities. The purpose of the stimulating task in which we were involved was to help us figure out how to deal with this clarified future. How, as one man put it, to "best maneuver through the situation."

I don't maneuver. I distill. I distill from the many possible anxieties a primary one. I can imagine that point in time, if my husband and I stay together, and I believe we will, where our future will function like this: every night we'll go to bed wondering who won't be alive in the morning. When we kiss good night, it won't be as we kiss now in our forties. I won't be worrying whether or not I should be more passionate more regularly because if I'm not he might leave me for another woman. I'll be kissing him wondering if we'll never kiss again. I'll be wondering if this is not good night but good-bye. I can imagine, too, that this anxiety is somewhat purifying, because it is so simple, so unavoidable. You believe you can prevent your husband or wife from leaving you for another person--this is one reason we gossip in our forties. But someday we will leave or be left, and it won't be anyone's fault or anyone's choice. There is no available gossip to teach us how to avoid this fate.
The New Yorker also published an excerpt that gives a good feeling for this book's delicate and appealingly irritable treatment of marriage and mortality, and Becca wrote about Julavits and Manguso for the Globe.

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