The grieving story and the love story that form the backbone of New Yorker Memoirs of the writer Kathryn Schulz Lost found are not, in themselves, extraordinary.
We start with the death of his father Isaac in September 2016 – “not a tragedy, ”because he passed away after a long history of illness,“ peacefully, at the age of seventy-four. Schulz was in his forties when his father passed away, a very average time to experience such a loss. she writes that she met and fell in love with the woman she was going to marry – the writer Casey Cep (here called “C.”) – 18 months before her father died. That they had met was not unusual; They had been introduced by a mutual friend and both wrote for the same magazine. Nor is it strange that Schulz experienced both heartbreak and love (more on that later).
Corn Lost found is as much a philosophical calculation with the experiences of loss and discovery as it is a recording of Schulz’s personal grief and love stories. It is this philosophical reversal of loss and discovery that makes this memory extraordinary, because it frees an existential sense from the quite banal facts of human life.
Schulz structures his exploration into three movements titled “Lost”, “Found” and “And”, which are respectively rooted in the loss of his father, the search for love and the marriage with C. From the beginning, however, we quickly move beyond the details of what happened to Schulz, and in an outward explosion of what it means to lose, find, connect and keep going. On the second page, Schulz already explores the etymology of loss, considering why we turn to it to describe the death of a loved one:
“The verb ‘to lose’ has its taproot embedded in sorrow; it is related to the “lorn” in “forlorn”. It comes from an Old English word which means to perish, which comes from an even older word which means to separate or separate … The circle of what we can lose … started with our own lives and those of the others and has grown steadily since. ”
The fact that Schulz could make such a compelling – surprising but appropriate – visit to the Oxford English Dictionary is a testament to his abilities as a prose stylist.
The readers of Schulz’s remarkable February 2017 New Yorker test “Losing Streak” will remember this passage, because Lost found completes the exploration started by this piece. The first section of the memoir and “Losing Streak” recount how the person Schulz lost – his father – was also a consummate loser. “He had a prodigious memory, a panoptic curiosity and an ability, when faced with problems of all kinds, to distinguish what was irrelevant from what mattered as quickly as a coin machine separates pennies from coins,” writes Schulz in Lost found. “What he didn’t have, nine out of ten times, was his wallet.” These passages, where we learn who Isaac was – a lawyer, a refugee, a Detroit Tiger fan, a man who “had something urgent to say about almost everything” – are rendered with love, making us miss him too.
What makes the first section of this memory piercing – where she improves “Losing Streak” – is that beyond a touching portrait of singular mourning, Schulz unveils universal truths about Why loss annoys us and forces us to struggle with our place in the world and how it works. When we can’t locate what we’ve lost – whether it’s a sweater in a tiny apartment, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the Indian Ocean, or a deceased loved one on that plane of existence – we often respond with “a strong feeling of disbelief” because it seems that “the world does not obey its customary rules”. It is certainly not possible that these losses are irrecoverable. In fact, Schulz reminds us, the rules of our world dictate that we will lose our possessions and lose our lives:
“Losing something … forces us to confront the limits of existence: the fact that sooner or later it is in the nature of almost everything to pass out or perish. Time and time again, loss calls us upon us. to accommodate this universal impermanence – with the puzzling, infuriating, heart-wrenching fact that something that was right here can, all of a sudden, be gone. ”
Here, Schulz forces us to sit down with what we ignore in our daily lives, so that we can continue to live them – the impermanence of all that we love. The death of someone you have shared your life with is crippling, as it plunges you into a brutal awareness of this impermanence. And yet, if we are to continue living, we must make peace knowing that nothing in this world is eternal. It is this riddle that Schulz unravels in the last section of the book, “And”.
Before we get to that, however, we spend a hundred pages in the rapture of discovering love – pages that pay homage to the astonishment of finding anything “in a stochastic world.” It is very difficult to write about contentment and not being smug, which Schulz acknowledges when she considers that in most love stories, “‘happily ever after’ is the end, not the story. “. In “Found”, she takes up this challenge by bringing back the happiness of her life with C. with a texture that brings to life the way “finding makes [the world] richer, more abundant, more interesting. ”As Schulz describes time spent outdoors with C., his enthusiasm for the natural world is reminiscent of the New Yorker report on the earthquakes for which she won the Pulitzer Prize, although here tinged with fear, no alarm.
Sometimes all this fear becomes boring, like when Schulz is amazed at the chances of risking his partner. It did not seem “improbable to me that [they] had never met “just because C. was raised Lutheran on the east coast of Maryland and a Jew from Schulz to Shaker Heights, Ohio. The Argonauts to William James to define how we recover and find out.
William James returns in “And”, and it is him that Schulz invokes to synthesize “Lost” and “Found” in Lost found. In The principles of psychology, James writes: “We must say a feeling of and… as easily as we say a feeling of blue or a feeling of cold. “We live our lives in this feeling of and, in simultaneity, in juxtaposition, in continuity. We are in sorrow and we are in love at the same time. Schulz lost “the life that seemed to filter through” his father and found the life filtered through his wife. The two experiences together taught him the immensity of the world and the time we devote to it. “It’s easy to feel small and helpless,” Schulz writes, “easy too to feel awestruck and lucky to be here”. Lost found is a spur to wonder, a call to remember that “we are there to watch, not to keep”.
Kristen Martin’s writings have also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Believer, The Baffler, and elsewhere. She tweets to @kwistent.