Wednesday, July 18, 2007

so jealous

I stand here cooking. The sage and prosciutto crisp up and the two tilapia fillets are just done. Her white zin poured, my Ariel chilled. We’re about ready and Miss Liz Hille circles the kitchen, hungry hawk. I have known her for a few years now—we wrote fiction and set our first darts of literary criticism sailing together at Bennington Writing Seminars—and I have stepped wordlessly out of her life multiple times to etch out runes in the soot of my solitary cave. Again this time, she’s there, easy, when I emerge. I dish up fish, potatoes. I listen as she recounts climbing toward meaning after having had her students read Hills Like White Elephant and I realize what I’m feeling: jealousy. However many light-years apart our preferences in style may be (her Bukowski to my Coetzee, her Gaitskill to my Austen), I envy the students who get to work with a reader like her.

It’s not that I lack literary outlets. I can—and do—lob titles with whip-quick bibliophiles every day. In fact, I realize I spend the greater part of most days devoted to books in one way or another—reading, editing, rereading, writing, throwing, weeping into, studying, browsing, copying, promoting, reveling, reimagining—and so I necessarily talk to and work with lots of like-minded humans, all communing around this momentary art. Liz, however, has some simple witchcraft in her way of reading. We should all be so free of pretensions, but engaged to the depths. I toast genuine curiosity, the possession of fierce opinions without a single cutting edge, and most of all, shameless rapacity. But I can’t help but worry her kitchen might get crowded. Can you blame me?

Here’s an excerpt of Liz’s latest.