Thursday, June 6, 2013

Five top portraits of grief

Joshua Henkin is the author of the novels Matrimony, a New York Times Notable Book, and Swimming Across the Hudson, a Los Angeles Times Notable Book and The World Without You, winner of the 2012 Edward Lewis Wallant Award for Jewish American Fiction and a Finalist for the 2012 National Jewish Book Award.

One of his five best portraits of grief, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Half a Life
by Darin Strauss (2010)

'Half my life ago, I killed a girl." So begins Darin Strauss's brutally unsentimental memoir of when he was 18 and Celine Zilke, a girl from his Long Island high school, swerved her bicycle in front of his car in what may have been a suicide. Told in bursts of chapters, some only a paragraph long, the book is an exquisitely wrought examination of Strauss's feelings of guilt (he was cleared of all wrongdoing) and of the guilt he feels for feeling guilty in the first place. Should he visit Celine in the hospital? Should he go to her funeral? How, Strauss wonders, can he even ask such questions? If he thinks of the accident as being about him, he will diminish what happened to Celine and her family. Yet everywhere he goes, he is made to feel that the accident is about him: in school assemblies, on dates, even by Celine's mother, who tells him: "Whatever you do in your life you have to do it twice as well now. Because you are living it for two people." "Half a Life" is about Strauss's failure to do this—about the very impossibility of the enterprise.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Darin Strauss' Half a Life.

--Marshal Zeringue