Saturday, January 13, 2018
I could easily go back through all of Aciman’s published work and underline passages and write in the margins of the pages, same for me, this is me, this was me, he states perfectly what I’ve always felt about these things, he writes about this as I would have written about such things, such perfect synch between what he says or describes and what I’ve long experienced and felt. But is this not what we do with so many writers? We find ways to believe they write for us, express what we want to have expressed. We identify, after all, with the tales they tell, the characters they describe, the ways they express thought, storylines, the narrative voices they use. This is the whole of literary art and how readers have always enjoyed it. But, no, with Aciman there is a distinct difference for me. He describes feeling, longing, anxiety, ambivalence, being in the middle of situations, places, people, moods, thoughts, in all the ways familiar to my own inner life. Much more so than any other writer I’ve ever read. I have been waiting for over fifty years to find a writer like Aciman. I had given up hope of every finding one like him. The closest most recently has been Pessoa. When I read The Book of Disquiet only a few years ago, I said oh if only I had had this book forty years or so ago. Why had I never read this book before now? Pessoa as companion and guide would have helped me so much at so many moments in life. With Aciman, this same sort of recognition and relief but even closer to the bone. Uncanny it felt. Instant sense of deep inner accord. No matter how much he talks about the externals of his story, and they are as dramatic and noteworthy for a major writer as possible---Alexandria, Jewish, Ladino, France, Rome, New York, memoir, novels, essays, awards, fellowships, the whole success of the writer in our time--no matter all of this. The essential wonder is how much, how perfectly, my own experiences in their felt rhythems and patterns align with all that he feels about his outer life.