Harold Brodkey, by Howard Coale for The New Yorker, 1995
|Born||October 25, 1930
|Died||January 26, 1996 (aged 65)
Manhattan, New York City, New York
|Other names||Weintraub, Aaron Roy (birth name|
Memory, so complete and clear or so evasive, has to be ended, has to be put aside, as if one were leaving a chapel and bringing the prayer to an end in one's head.
True stories, autobiographical stories, like some novels, begin long ago, before the acts in the account, before the birth of some of the people in the tale.
I feel sorry for the man who marries you… because everyone thinks you're sweet and you're not.
I am sensible of the velocity of the moments, and entering that part of my head alert to the motion of the world I am aware that life was never perfect, never absolute. This bestows contentment, even a fearlessness.
I was always crazy about New York, dependent on it, scared of it – well, it is dangerous – but beyond that there was the pressure of being young and of not yet having done work you really liked, trademark work, breakthrough work.
I look upon another's insistence on the merits of his or her life – duties, intellect, accomplishment – and see that most of it is nonsense.
Death and I are head to head in a total collision, pure and mutual distaste.
I can't change the past, and I don't think I would. I don't expect to be understood. I like what I've written, the stories and two novels. If I had to give up what I've written in order to be clear of this disease, I wouldn't do it.
Almost the first thing I did when I became ill was to buy a truly good television set.
I awake with a not entirely sickened knowledge that I am merely young again and in a funny way at peace, an observer who is aware of time's chariot, aware that some metamorphosis has occurred.
I have thousands of opinions still – but that is down from millions – and, as always, I know nothing.
Me, my literary reputation is mostly abroad, but I am anchored here in New York. I can't think of any other place I'd rather die than here.
I am in an adolescence in reverse, as mysterious as the first, except that this time I feel it as a decay of the odds that I might live for a while, that I can sleep it off.
In New York one lives in the moment rather more than Socrates advised, so that at a party or alone in your room it will always be difficult to guess at the long term worth of anything.
God is an immensity, while this disease, this death, which is in me, this small, tightly defined pedestrian event, is merely and perfectly real, without miracle – or instruction.
If you like to read, sometimes it's interesting just to go and see what the reality is, of the word, of the seedy or not so seedy fiction writer, the drunk or sober poet… Sometimes you can go looking for illumination.
It is like visiting one's funeral, like visiting loss in its purest and most monumental form, this wild darkness, which is not only unknown but which one cannot enter as oneself.
Being ill like this combines shock – this time I will die – with a pain and agony that are unfamiliar, that wrench me out of myself.
It is death that goes down to the center of the earth, the great burial church the earth is, and then to the curved ends of the universe, as light is said to do.
It bothers me that I won't live to see the end of the century, because, when I was young, in St. Louis, I remember saying to Marilyn, my sister by adoption, that that was how long I wanted to live: seventy years.
So an autobiography about death should include, in my case, an account of European Jewry and of Russian and Jewish events – pogroms and flights and murders and the revolution that drove my mother to come here.