ESSAYS

With Leonard Michaels there is right away the ordeal of style—deep style, style as a way of being in the world. Style and self are so closely intertwined when he talks about them that it isn’t always easy to tell which is which. The way I write about myself and anything else is, I’m afraid, personal or it’s nothing. The either/or of personal versus nothing was electric with severity: often he vetoed the work on the grounds that it was nothing. Or he revised mercilessly in the direction of personal. What we are left with, including this volume of essays, communicates a feeling of rarity, managing to emerge, beautiful, from under immense pressures of negation.

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It might be easy to be a good father in the wake of an apocalypse. Comprehension of the shocking extent of one’s love for one’s child is a secret component of big moments like birth or, knock on wood, bad accidents, and an ongoing crisis requires sustained exercise of this love whose wildness and authority are usually obscured by the clutter of lesser emotion, the white noise of distraction. It is rarely seen; its magnitude is mostly irrelevant to ordinariness. It can lead a subdued life, this love, without once forgetting that its homeground is the old savannah of life-and-death. Freed, it frees prodigious energies whose object is the child’s survival.

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