Hey! Did you JUST LOVE that Gene Weingarten article from a year or two ago, about parents whose kids died in the back seats of their cars? I know: HI-LAR-IOUS! Right?
Well, then you’re gonna love-love-LOVE Aleksandar Hemon’s piece in this week’s New Yorker (subscription required), in which he and his wife deal with his 9-month-old daughter Isabel’s horrible, horrible, horrible, depressing, awful, miserable illness. I read it last night, and was in tears by the end. Then I made my wife read it, and she cried too. It’s total parental-worst-nightmare porn.
Okay, serious mode: This is an incredible article, beautiful, beyond sad, moving. It makes me wonder, though, about how (or even whether) a writer should balance the beauty of his/her art against the tragedy of real life. Hemon’s daughter’s illness was diagnosed a mere 11 months ago, and he’s already converted the entire awful saga into an incredible, insightful piece of writing. As they said after 9/11: Too soon? Or, as Hemon himself points out, is this really just the way we writers process the world, by turning it into stories?
But then, on top of everything, I try to imagine Hemon dealing with his editor on the story—negotiating the contract, dealing with copy editors, fact-checkers, proofreaders, cashing the check. Does it all count as a tribute to the child’s struggle, or is that check still lying in Hemon’s desk drawer, in an unopened envelope, a hefty reminder of a decision he’s still wrestling with? That, too, may be another story he’ll have to tell one day.