The Funniest, Saddest Thing I’ve Ever Read

June 7th, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  4 Comments

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.


  1. MJ says:

    June 7th, 2011at 1:31 pm(#)

    Teary-eyed story time! My favorite.

    1. Lorrie Moore got major anthology love for her lightly fictionalized nightmare cancer-baby story — a gorgeous piece, for those who haven’t read it. (

    2. Saddest nonfiction parent piece I’ve ever read is about not quite making it to full parenthood:

    But I hear he has two gorgeous kids now.

    That Gene Weingarten piece gave me freaking waking nightmares for a month back when I read it.

  2. Matt says:

    June 7th, 2011at 2:11 pm(#)

    Thanks for the links, MJ. I am not going to click on them, however, at least not until I’m feeling a little more emotionally stable.

  3. beta dad says:

    June 10th, 2011at 2:50 am(#)

    My copy just arrived today. Was looking forward to reading in bed. Not so sure now.


    Frederick Busch, Benjamin Busch, and the tragedy of fact-checking | DADWAGON

Leave a Response


Recent Comments

  • Dee: As one of the impressed moms there last night, and also because my kid ate 3 bowls of that bolognese, thanks for...
  • Drew Wallner via Facebook: I’m totally making this when we get back from holiday travel, I even just got a...
  • Matt: Whoops! Just put that back in. The recipe editor has been fired.
  • Ed Lilly: Looks great – thanks for posting! One question – you did not specify putting the meat back into...
  • Maks: I’m against baby yoga for sure, but want to say something regarding that author is a little wild about...

DadWagon Reads!


But no daycare.

Apple's New Campus Has Cutting-Edge Features That Will Amaze You | Architectural Digest

Steve Jobs's final vision has been realized, and it's in the form of a bold 175-acre, Foster + Partners–designed campus

May 17th 4:21pm • No Comments

On the one hand, this is a cute project. On the other, he named his daughter Madison, which is just awful.

Dad Creates Book For Daughter Who 'Didn't Want To Be Chinese'

His daughter doesn't have any Asian storybook heroes, so he's creating some.

May 16th 2:50pm • No Comments

Time to teach the kids how to start a fire in the Weber.

The New York Times Makes a Print Play for Kids

Sunday’s New York Times will include a special print section for kids.

May 11th 12:08pm • No Comments