A new collection of pieces on literature and life by the author of Am I Alone Here?, a finalist for the NBCC Award for Criticism
Stationed in the South Pacific during World War II, Seymour Orner wrote a letter every day to his wife, Lorraine. She seldom responded, leading him to plead in 1945, “Another day and still no word from you.” Seventy years later, Peter Orner writes in response to his grandfather’s plea: “Maybe we read because we seek that word from someone, from anyone.”
From the acclaimed fiction writer about whom Dwight Garner of The New York Times wrote, “You know from the second you pick him up that he’s the real deal,” comes Still No Word from You, a unique chain of essays and intimate stories that meld the lived life and the reading life. For Orner, there is no separation. Covering such well-known writers as Lorraine Hansberry, Primo Levi, and Marilynne Robinson, as well as other greats like Maeve Brennan and James Alan McPherson, Orner’s highly personal take on literature alternates with his own true stories of loss and love, hope and despair. In his mother’s copy of A Coney Island of the Mind, he’s stopped short by a single word in the margin, “YES!” — which leads him to conjure his mother at twenty-three. He stops reading Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Beginning of Spring three quarters of the way through because he knows that finishing the novel will leave him bereft. Orner’s solution is to start again from the beginning to slow the inevitable heartache.
Still No Word from You is a book for anyone for whom reading is as essential as breathing.
Peter Orner is the author of the novels The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo and Love and Shame and Love and the story collections Esther Stories, Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge, and Maggie Brown & Others. His previous collection of essays, Am I Alone Here?: Notes on Living to Read and Reading to Live, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. A three-time recipient of the Pushcart Prize, Orner’s work has appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, Granta, McSweeney’s, and has been translated into eight languages. He has been awarded the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a two-year Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship, the California Book Award for fiction, the Edward Lewis Wallant Award for Jewish fiction, as well as a Fulbright in Namibia. He is the director of creative writing at Dartmouth College and lives with his family in Norwich, Vermont.
Tom Barbash is the author of The Dakota Winters and the award-winning novel, The Last Good Chance, which was was awarded the California Book Award, and the short story collection Stay Up With Me, which was a national bestseller and was nominated for the Folio Prize. His nonfiction book, On Top of the World: Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, and 9/11: A Story of Loss and Renewal, was a New York Times bestseller. His stories and articles have been published in Tin House, McSweeney’s, VQR, and other publications, and have been performed on National Public Radio for their Selected Shorts Series. He currently teaches in the MFA program at California College of the Arts. He grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and currently lives in Marin County.
Peter Orner photo courtesy of Katie Crouch; Tom Barbash photo courtesy of the author