Dear TCL Readers:
I’m sending this newsletter just before the movers are coming, set to transport my furniture, my books — my life, really — from Brooklyn to Upper Manhattan. It feels right to say goodbye to Brooklyn after nine years, though of course, the borough isn’t going anywhere. But I am, because now, in my forty-first year, I need to be closer to my family, blood and chosen, to a more concrete Jewish community I’ve waxed and waned on wanting my whole life, and to be more selective with social energy. The new place is also, I just realized, the first one where I have intentionally moved in by myself, and as a full-time book writer — such a different prospect when having to live with others, and having to juggle day jobs and freelance assignments and a general sense of peripatetic fervor.
A friend of mine, when I told her of my plans, applauded me for being “so healthy”. It is. I think so, anyway.
The thing about leaving a place is that it is, by and large, still there after you’re gone. It changes, but so do you. Most of my biggest life changes take place around the High Holidays. Book publications, cancer surgeries, terrible breakups, and now, this move. That seems right to me. These are times of reflection and contemplation, of atonement and fulfillment, and what I’m reflecting upon most is: can I be a better human? Can I be a better Jew? And then, can I be a better writer? The answers must be complex and even unsatisfactory. But I’m looking forward to finding out.
Also, brownstone living is lovely, but I will not miss the flights of stairs or having to go to the laundromat during high heat or bitter cold. Plus I now have this:
Naturally, the week of my move is when pieces publish. (Moving has been such a full-time effort that I’ve not been able to write since the middle of September. Oh will I be glad to get back to the new book soon…) First, for Elemental, I wrote about two vital books on breast cancer by Anne Boyer and Kate Pickert that accomplish very different things — Boyer is a poet and essayist looking inward, Pickert is a journalist casting outward — but together challenge orthodoxy about the language and myths of cancer.
Then, for CrimeReads, I wrote about a strange incident that’s obsessed me for a while: what really happened in June 1947, when the mystery writer Mary Roberts Rinehart was very nearly murdered in her own home in Bar Harbor, Maine by a longtime servant? To find out, I stayed on the grounds of the Rinehart estate (which burned down four months after this incident), read an excellent biography of the writer, and dug through old newspaper clippings. The answers I wanted eluded me, but the answers I got turned out to be more meaningful, and far sadder.
(Interestingly, Rinehart is the link between both of my pieces, since she wrote an essay about her own breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, and granted an interview to Ladies Home Journal on the topic.)
And there’s a third piece posting soon, perhaps even later today. Next Saturday, the 12th, I’ll be in conversation with Art Taylor at Fall for the Book. More events listed here. You can always see what I’m doing or nattering on about on Twitter (and less so, on Instagram) and paid subscribers get special bonus content, so here’s the link for that, too.
Some of the books I’ve read and loved of late: Chanel Miller’s memoir Know My Name, which unmoored me and which is clearly going to be taught in college (and, I hope, high schools) from now on; Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey’s She Said, which fired me up for investigative reporting and affirmed that approaching subjects with utmost empathy and compassion is the only way to go (something Bob Woodward clearly has no concept of); Belonging by Nora Krug, a fantastic graphic novel combing through family history to figure out the degree of Nazi sympathy and collaboration; Leslie Jamison’s new essay collection Make It Scream, Make It Burn; Imani Perry’s hybrid biography of Lorraine Hansberry, Looking For Lorraine; and Elizabeth Little’s long-awaited second crime novel, Pretty As A Picture, which is seriously effing great.
And after the move, I am looking forward to watching Unbelievable, the television series most recommended to me by friends. I’ll watch it! I’ve just been a little preoccupied lately.
Finally, a plug for Dan Sinker’s already-indispensable daily newsletter, Impeachment.fyi. Because the news cycle is simply too much to keep up with when there’s work to be done and life to live, and Dan — who co-hosts the wonderful Says Who? podcast with Maureen Johnson — has it covered for the rest of us, thank god.
Next newsletter will be from the new place, and new horizons. And to all my book trade friends who subscribe (and those who read it anyway): new address update coming soon!
Until then, I remain,
The Crime Lady