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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. (http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1997/01/27/1997_01_27_058_TNY_CARDS_000376224)

    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

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