June 6th, 2011 / 9:51 am
I Like __ A Lot

A letter to Michael Kimball

Dear Michael Kimball,

In perhaps a not entirely sober state, I started your book Us on Saturday night. It was midnight, plus or minus some time. I had many other books to read, but I started your book, and after I read the first paragraph, I wanted to read the whole thing, that night, but I fell asleep on page fifty, plus or minus some pages, and all night while I slept, I was angry at myself for falling asleep.

Michael Kimball, I started your book from the very beginning yesterday because I was perhaps not fully sober when I started the night before. I woke up unnecessarily early yesterday morning, despite having had a raucous night previously, not to mention the disturbed slumber, at 6:30. I propelled myself out of bed and picked up your book immediately. I read your book while I prepared my coffee.

Rather than check my email, I read your book.

I read your book while I walked to the café.

I read your book in the café.

I read your book in the car, going over to a friend’s house.

While with my friend, whom I will be departing within the month to move, I was distracted. I talked about your book. I wanted to read your book, rather than spend time with my friend.

We went to a movie, and while I watched it, I kept thinking about your book and how I wanted to read your book rather than passively watch a film. It was an entertaining film, but no movie can compare to the weight of your book.

When I got home, I made an excuse to go to the grocery store, such that I could read your book while walking.

While walking to the grocery store, I took circuitous routes.

I read your book while in the grocery store. I got some funny looks, but I barely noticed because I was reading your book.

I missed the oil aisle and had to circle back twice, but I didn’t mind because my absence of mind in the grocery store meant my presence of mind while in your narrative. I stood in the longest line, just to have a few more minutes reading. I was frustrated that the grocery clerk wanted to make small talk, because all I wanted was to read undisturbed. I bought my extra virgin olive oil.

I walked home from the grocery store. My shoulder hurt because of the weight of the olive oil bottle, plus the normal trash I have accumulated over the past three years that heavy my bag. In my left hand, I held your book, open, walking slowly, reading like it was weightless.

I finished your book just a few yards from my front door. I didn’t want to finish it. I wanted to finish it. It is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. I have not had this kind of torrid affair with a book before. I love books, I am always reading them. I am usually obsessed with the books I am reading. They often feel like affairs, but your book, it was different. It felt like the first time a boy held my hand—Douglas, a cellist, on an airplane from Sydney to LAX to San Antonio. A book has never made me feel this way.

It was love, Michael Kimball, but it was also mourning. Reading your book, I was transported back to the year 2000, when my father had a stroke and lost movement and lost consciousness and lost memory. I held his hand in the Intensive Care Unit and he couldn’t feel it. This is what your book felt like for me.

It was mourning, Michael Kimball, but it was also exaltation. Reading your book was like opening an email that said my first book would be published.

Your book was my grandmother’s funeral. Just a year earlier, my grandmother had a weak hip and I was helping her walk. She asked me for her walker, and I was lazy. I urged her to take the two steps necessary for her to get to the bed. I held my arms open to guide her. I held my arms open to hold her, but she missed. She fell and she was helpless on the ground and I was too small to lift her to the lip of the bed. I tried and she tried and she was on the bed and then she slipped off again. Three months later, she was in a nursing home. She would never recover. It was not my fault, not really, but I can’t shake the memory. Your book is that memory. Your book is a resurrection of all that pain.

Michael Kimball, your book contains in it all the glory of love. I am not a romantic, but I have never felt such love and romance for my husband as when I was reading your book. I have never felt so grateful. I have never felt such humility.

Your book, Michael Kimball, is the book I wish I could write. Your book is the book I wish every book could be. It is reification. It is haptic. It is ecstatic. Thank you, Michael Kimball, for Us.

Love, Lily

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  1. guest

      This is beautiful. Kimball’s novel made me cry and now your letter made me cry.

  2. Joseph Riippi

      Agree. 100 percent agree. Loved this book so much.

  3. Alec Niedenthal


  4. stefan michael

      Stylistically and thematically in its immediacy, Kimball’s book takes Us into the space where we wait in the green-shadowed fluorescent-humming astringent-smelling hallways outside a hospital room as nurses perform acts of kindness on the person we are afraid to be away from for even a moment for fear that person we love so dearly will disappear.
      I wondered, when reading Us, if Kimball had ever read Stephen Dixon’s short story “Down the Road,” which captures, as this book does, the impossibilty of our own mortality, of incomprehensible loss, resistance, and final resignation.  

  5. herocious

      This review. This review.

      That book. That book.

  6. jeroen

      So you liked it? (Think your letter to Michael Kimball might’ve sold one copy of his book to me).

  7. Dawn.

      What a beautiful review. Now I need to read this book.

  8. Mark C

      Spot on, Lily. What’s so great about this book is that it obviously had to be an incredibly personal book for Michael to write; yet it seems to effect everyone who reads it in an incredibly personal way. It reminds them of their own instances of loss and it forces them to revisit those feelings.

      And that really speaks to what Michael accomplished here. I’ll never forget this fucking book.

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  13. Mark Folse

      Heard him tonight in New Orleans at Antenna Gallery with Blake and not sure whose book to start first.

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  17. bg

      hope no one was killed when you were reading as you drove… but yeah, nice letter. 

  18. jackie wang

      yay epistolary review. michael is so sweet–took alec and i out to lunch when i moved to baltimore.

      also, my grandma went to a nursing home recently. visited her many times when i went to florida and it was depressing…the babyish contrived celebratory atmosphere and the nearness of death…. it’s weird to think that you go out like you came: helpless.

  19. Largehearted Boy: Book Notes - Michael Kimball ("Us")

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