Sigrid Nunez: The Friend



Ive with our narrator a friend of the deceased at the reuest of his widow his third wife He s much too much for her to handle in her spacious place and she s not interested in trying to make it work Apollo was his dog and she has no interest in keeping him It s clear from the start that Apollo is mourning the loss of the man but uietly accepts the transfer to this strange new woman despite her building having a no dogs allowed policy This is not a plot driven book it weaves through thoughts the past her frustration with her students grasp of the English language and simple sentence construction her growing fondness for this new being sharing her life and missing the asy friendship with her former friend Apollo s former master The writing is lovely in its sparseness adding a graceful simplicity to this story that reads like a memoir that wanders hither and yon always returning to the tie that binds her to Apollo In the beginning of their days together she keeps Apollo out of a sense of obligation to her friend something to bond them now that he s gone As time passes her focus changes and she becomes almost single mindedly devoted to Apollo who has now become her dog in Black Boy every sense they have bonded The grief is still there it is one of the things they share but in sharing that grief a bond has nevertheless been formed They don t commit suicide They don t weep But they can and do fall to pieces They can and do have their hearts broken They can and do lose their minds Clever and darkly amusing this flits from topic to topic never staying with one too long A tribute to life and all that includes all of the ugly dark and painful sides of life balanced by the loveliness of life and the love we share through our words spoken or written Many thanks once again to the Public Library system and the many Librarians that manage organize and keep it running for the loan of this book Update This made the 2018 National Book Awards Longlist for Fiction good choiceThis was an awesome doggie good AudiobookRead byHillary HuberIt s dry it s sly it s never dull It s also uite beautiful and touching It s about a friend a man a suicide a dog Apollo and 3 wivesIt takes place in New York with writers and writing seminarsThere s noscaping sadness loss grief and death but if you love dogs and literature with great dialoguerecognize a fabulous voice narrator when you hear one this is a wonderful choiceSlip this book in between a tragic WWII book or a Political American non fiction frightening book Love the uniueness this book is I loved the Great Dane Apollo but unfortunately couldn t get into the book other than the sections that talked about Apollo despite my joy over twinkle lights and tiny notebooks Nighttime Sweethearts etc i was apprehensive when i got this book in my uarterly literary fiction box from pagehabit let s just say this isn t a good time of year for me to be reading books about suicide OR books where beloved animals might die but this isn t a tearjerker by any means for a book about grief it s almostntirely cerebral and most of the Maternity Bride (Silhouette Desire emotional responses to death are centered in the behavior of the dog whose master has just diedit s somewhere in between a letter and a novel without being shaped likeither a series of loosely connected stream of consciousness musings written in second person where the you is not the reader but the narrator s recently deceased longtime friend and mentor whose unexpected suicide left behind a widow two Safe in My Arms ex wives a career s worth of students and readers the narrator herself and a 180 pound great dane named apollo apollo is or less foisted upon the narrator by wife three despite hernviably rent stabilized manhattan apartment s no dogs policy and they build a companionship upon their shared loss the narrator is also a writing teacher and this book feels like a writing assignment write a book about the grieving process without being Presunta colpevole emotionally manipulative without any named human characters without a traditional plot or narrative structure also name drop uote and reference at least fifty writers per chapter the result is unusual grief manifesting in a clinical detached way freuently as physical symptoms ofmotional distress but ironically it s this self consciously strict refusal to commit to or indulge any Poisoned Secrets (Murder and Mayhem emotional response on paper that makes the pain stand out that much the control and theffort that control must reuire a lot of the novel is about writing in general and about writing as therapy it s a recurring theme in a book in which recurrence itself is a theme there s always than one thing going on in any given passage something harkening back to or presaging another passage it s all very intricate while giving the illusion it s unconcerned with structure a sample pageA friend of mine who is working on a memoir says I hate the idea of writing as some kind of catharsis because it seems like that can t possibly produce a good bookYou cannot hope to console yourself for your grief by writing warns Natalia GinzburgTurn then to Isak Denisen who believed that you could make any sorrow bearable by putting it into a story or telling a story about it I suppose that I did for myself what psychoanalysts do for their patients I Safe Words expressed some very long felt and deeply feltmotion And in His To Claim (McBain Brothers Alpha, expressing it Ixplained it and then laid it to rest Woolf is talking about writing about her mother thoughts of whom had obsessed her between the ages of thirteen her age when her mother died and forty four when in a great apparently. Gainst grief is intensified by the mute suffering of the dog a huge Great Dane traumatized by the inexplicable disappearance of its master and by the threat of viction dogs are prohibited in her apartment buildingWhile others worry that grief has made her a victim of magical thinking the woman refuses to be.

THE FRIEND by Sigrid Nunez is uite simply one of the best personal narrative novels I ve come across concerning dogs and writing In the same vein as MY DOG TULIP Nunez alternates philosophizing between her literary musings and the unexpected care she must bestow upon a massive great dane As a dog lover I am a sucker for any good dog book but Nunez s focus not only on the physical complications of a huge dog in tiny spaces but also upon the heavy philosophical uestions that arise for many writers and their pooches is second to none At different times the subjects of love and loss take the forefront bouncing back and forth between the death of a close friend and the dog the protagonist takes in after the tragedy Both hilarious and heartwarming while also deeply contemplative and mpathic THE FRIEND is an uncanny Pursuit of Justice exploration of grief and loss while never losing its focus on the power dogs have for humans Writers often have some type of non human companion that helps not only with their craft but their mental state and this novel perfectly captures that balance these animals can be an incredible burden at times but a life without them just seems impossible The level ofmpathy a dog bestows upon its owner is paramount and Nunez showcases the psychological gauntlet these animals put us through and how the rewards always outweigh all other considerations A brisk read filled with heart humor and darkness THE FRIEND was one of the most delightful reading Dangerous to Touch experiences I ve had in some time So much so in fact that I look forward to being able to read the book a second time in no time at all A meditation on writing grief and friendship The Friend follows an unnamed woman as she comes to terms with an old friend s suicide and struggles to take care of the dog he has left behind The novel is narrated from the woman s perspective andach of its twelve chapters consists of a series of fragments addressing a wide array of subjects The flimsy plot in fact feels merely like a jumping off point for philosophical contemplation the narrator discusses at length the Once Upon a Seduction (Its All About Attitude ethics of animal ownership sexual harassment friendships between men and women divorce literary composition pedagogy and suicide A pair of twists in the final two chapters adds a dash of drama to the story but the appeal of the novel lieslsewhere Nunez s prose is terse and fast moving and her freuent references to the work of other writers makes her book read as a collage of perspectives While I value the author s project and admire her style I often felt The Friend to be old fashioned in thought and disjointed in form Update Bumping my rating down to 2 stars The I think about it the I don t think the author s intentions were Rodeo Daughter executed well This book was a miss for me but I ve decided not to rate this 2 stars since I think that s just a matter of my personal preference rather than the objective uality of the book It s less of a story and a string of musings about literature life and death and how interconnected they can be The book aims to be 35 Loss and loneliness are the main themesxplored in this novel about friendship and the life of writing When a woman loses her best friend and mentor to suicide she tries to understand his actions deal with the loss of this person and takes on the responsibility of caring for his aged Great Dane named Apollo Apollo is grieving the loss of his former friend and master and so together they travel a new roadThe writing is My Guilty Pleasure (Harlequin Blaze elegant spare recalling literaryntities who were also focused on their pets finding in them many times humanity in them than in their regular relationships The writing is non linear free flowing thoughts wandering from their past relationship to the literary Fatal Secrets (Protecting the Witnesses endeavors undertaken by them both and on to other subjects Intropsective and melancholy thoughts turn and twist the way memories do and always in the background the ties people have found and loved in their animals Trivia and insights into animals theirmpathy their understanding keen sense of smell the bond forged between them and their human counterparts A shorter novel but I found it fascinating the way it is pulled together worked for this A Wanted Man (Silhouette Intimate Moments, exceptionally well We could travel with this young woman as she attempts to come to terms with something unexpected and devastating in her own life The words sentences nothing wasted we are n her mind her free flowing thoughts Her own relationship with the Great Dane and what it comes to mean This will probably be a book that won t appeal to all but it did appeal to me I sometimes sink into these unconventional types of fictionjust float along with the words and ponder what I m readingARC from Edelweiss 45 Stars The dead dwell in the conditional tense of the unreal But there is also thextraordinary sense that you have become omniscient that nothing we do or think or feel can be kept from you The My Spy (Mission: Impassioned, extraordinary sense that you are reading these words that you know what they ll sayven before I write them Loss loneliness the writing life friendship grieving memories love in all its various forms between people and with our pets in this story with a dog But not just any dog a larger than life sized dog a harleuin Great Dane named Apollo who is mourning the loss of his human a man a writer who has taken his own life These are some of the themes Until You Loved Me (Silver Springs, examined in this thought provoking novel If reading really does increasempathy as we are constantly being told that it does it appears that writing takes some away Apollo comes to Librarian's note An alternate cover dition can be found hereA moving story of love friendship grief healing and the magical bond between a woman and her dogWhen a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor she finds herself burdened with the unwanted dog he has left behind Her own battle

Involuntary rush she wrote To the Lighthouse After which the obsession ceased I no longer hear her voice I do not see her Does the ffectiveness of catharsis depend on the uality of the writing And if a person finds catharsis by writing a book does it matter whether or not the book is any goodMy friend is also writing about her motherWriters love uoting Milosz When a writer is born into a family the family is finishedAfter I put my mother in a novel she never forgave meRather than say Toni Morrison who called basing a character on a real person an infringement of copyright A person owns his life she says It s not for another to use it for fictionthere are some absolutely gorgeous moments in this book some Secret Agent Minister and Deadly Texas Rose excellent lines and inspired observations and unexpected connections but that s what it left me with i felt like i hadxperienced several small lovely moments without having read something complete i m not able to articulate it with any precision right now but it s something Sigrid Nunez s The Friend sometimes reads like a memoir sometimes like a letter to a friend and sometimes in an attempt to make sense of both her friend s death and the dog who has come to stand in for him a philosophical inuiry I loved it Nunez is smart funny and thought provoking as she Why Not Tonight (Happily Inc., explores life death writing and relationships I know this book is not forveryone The fact that writing and the writing life is such a strong focus will appeal to some and turn others off Perhaps as a conseuence it doesn t really have a strong plot unless you count whether the unnamed narrator will find a way to keep her friend s dog but in my opinion that s not really the point Nunez does so much in these pages that keeps me wanting to keep reading This was my first time reading Sigrid Nunez but it won t be the last time I will look for another of Nunez s Since Sigrid Nunez s visit to Wyoming her latest novel The Friend won the National Book of the Year Award Congratulations Sigrid Update Friends as I had hoped this novel did win the National Book Award for 2018 See comments below where Wyndy first brought it to my attention that it was nominated This is such a well deserved honour for this author and this novel I hope the Award inspires all those who may have hesitated to read this Of the last four books I have read three have been about loss and grief It is another of those serendipities that I value as a reader and by itself gives cause for reflectionThis book does the same Many times I paused to ponder the words phrases and sentences I was readingThere are no names in this story save for one Apollo is a harleuin Great Dane dog who comes to the woman when her friend and mentor of many years dies and Wife Three cannot cope with the deep mourning of this left behind petThis novel presented a puzzle to me as well as a beautiful well told story Is she writing a letter to her friend and mentor who died Is she writing a book A biography of her friend the writer perhaps Are these thoughts and ideas ones that come to her and she records them in her journal It could be any one of those or all of them I never found out for certain and ultimately it does not matterThe woman is mourning That is for certain The dog is in mourning that is certain too Between the two of them with the threat of Her First Mother (Conveniently Wed, eviction hanging over their heads the woman s apartment does not allow dogs they immerse themselves inach other s grief and seek healing First for themselves and then for Welcome Home, Cowboy (Wed In The West, each other Or maybe forach other with the by product a healing for themselves The passages on writing are Snowbound Bride (Harlequin Men in Uniform Miniseries) extraordinary contradictory at times and remind usxactly how subjective certain aspects of life and death are I personally do not know of a family that has not been touched by suicide at one time or another Through this woman s literary uotes and musings of her own I came to understand suicide at levels I had not Cowboys Baby (Ranching Family, even thought of beforeThere are passages on the relationship between Apollo and the woman and their many ups and downs in the process of building a relationship that would serve them both The woman is reminded many times during this novel of small stories about people she knew not just her friend and mentor but others who sparked recollections that connected with her present momentsThere are also many passages on writers and writing on readers and reading Here is one small piece that had an impact on me as did so much of the writing I hope thatven removed from context its meaning comes through The woman as is the case in most of this story is addressing her friend But the truth was you had become so dismayed by the ubiuity of careless reading that something had happened that you had thought never could happen you had started not to care whether people read you or not And though you knew your publisher would spit in your Between the Land and the Sea (Marinas Tales, eye for saying so you were inclined to agree with whoever it was who said that no truly good book would find than three thousand readers I am not sure how so much managed to be housed in the pages of this book of less than 200 pages It is almost like opening a box that has many smaller boxes inside it The box isn t big but it can hold many many containers within I highly recommend finding a copy of this as soon as you can and I hope that yourxplorations reveal as many gold nuggets and gemstones as it did for meEdited to add This novel is on the list voting is tomorrow I believe for the National Book Award for fiction Thank you so much to our friend Wyndy who posted this link. Separated from the dog xcept for brief periods of time Isolated from the rest of the world increasingly obsessed with the dog's care determined to read its mind and fathom its heart she comes dangerously close to unraveling But while troubles abound rich and surprising rewards lie in store for both of them.

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Susan Sontag Among the journals to which she has contributed are The New York Times The New York Times Book Review The Paris Review Threepenny Review Harper’s McSweeney’s Tin House and The Believer Her work has also appeared in several anthologies including four Pushcart Prize volumes and four anthologies of Asian American literatureSigrid’s honors and awards include a Whiting Writer’s Award a Berlin Prize Fellowship and two awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters the Rosenthal Foundation Award and the Rome Prize in Literature She has taught at Columbia Princeton Boston University and the New School and has been a visiting writer or writer in residence at Amherst Smith Baruch Vassar and the University of California Irvine among others In spring 2019 she will be visiting writer at Syracuse University Sigrid has also been on the faculty of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and of several other writers’ conferences across the country She lives in New York City