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Real Deals Last Week: WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR, My Dinner with Midge and Roz Chast


Talk about fun! When I arrived at the Museum of the City of New York on April 13 for the press event before the April 14 opening of Roz Chast: Cartoon Memoirs she and I spoke. She recognized me. From other Roz Chast events. She then led 12-15 writers around the exhibit, stopping in front of her first New Yorker cover, many cartoons from the magazine and her books, including her last one CAN’T WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE PLEASANT? She’s witty, smart, chatty, and right-on just as she is in her art. It couldn’t have been any more pleasant. Afterwards, I bought “101 TWO-LETTER WORDS by Stephin Merritt that she illustrated. It was the only Roz Chast book I didn’t own. Last night at Scrabble I used OS and MU.

Dinner that evening with my friend, Midge, was oh so connected, too. Since meeting in our early 20s on a writing project at a NY publishing house, clicking, and going to Howard Johnson’s for hot fudge sundaes after work, we’ve shared Fire Island beach houses with our first husbands, many walks, more meals, small and big joys and sorrows. Despite taking different writing routes, having children of different ages and sexes, and getting divorced at different times, there has been a lot of listening, giggling, sharing, and caring. I don’t know what she’s experiencing now, grieving for her wonderful, longtime partner, who died 4 months ago, but at last week’s dinner when she read a sentence she wrote about him and their dog, a tear came to my eye. I asked if I could read the whole piece. As I did, my tears fell and fell. I’ve not been through what she’s going through. I listen. Care. As she has done for me.

I finished reading the great book WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR by Paul Kalanithi the night before our dinner and told Midge she might want to read it, take it in, but maybe not. When my father died, an acquaintance sent me a beautiful, sensitive poem about a father that totally resonated with me. The acquaintance and I became friends. I sent that poem to a friend when her father died. She no longer speaks to me. She thought the poem and my gesture were insensitive.

You never know about people. You just never know.

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