OCTOBER 22, 2011
André Aciman is, quite simply, one of the finest essayists of the last hundred years – you’d have to go back much farther, perhaps a visit to Montaigne, to find the combination of elegance, restraint, and longing that Aciman so generously bestows upon his readers. Attention, desire, memory: the ingredients for engagement. His essays lower cortisol, I kid you not. You emerge with a perspective on life. You are reminded of the hard-won beauty of it all. You want to travel, to see things — they are a cure for agoraphobia. You feel that it might be safe to think of your life as a single, whole journey, and not just a series of mistakes. In these 16 essays, he explores everything: sight, smell, imagination, reality, numbness, decay, intimacy. He recalls favorite streets and streets he embellished in his memory, cities (Barcelona, Rome, New York), stories he told and stories he was told and where they met in the middle. He thinks about writing and how it alters experience. “Writing sees figures where life sees things: things we leave behind, figures we keep.” Aciman’s theorem: What you find when you go looking is almost always better than what you hoped for. Try it out. Assume it to be the case.