Dear Evan Lavender-Smith,
I have read your two books. I have read and loved your two books. I couldn’t tell they were bred from the same body – yours – and your breadth alone amazes. Your breadth is the least of my compliments. From Old Notebooks: bursts of brilliance, ideas merely generated, without bodies with which to attach, organs without bodies. Avatar: a requiem, lodged between mourning and jubilance. The sadness I encountered with every string of words, I can’t describe it. The loneliness. Avatar felt like a return home, like you somehow understood me, like the book was composed for me alone, but it wasn’t.
I read Avatar just two weeks before I was to move from one country to another, to return to America, to live in the same city as you. I read your book while I was walking to campus, to meet friends for a final lunch, my old friends, geographers. Walking to campus, reading your book, I understood landscape in a different way, my feet trusting the ground enough to allow my eyes to occupy the page. Your pages are filled with repetition, one misstep and I would be led astray. The ground was filled with fissures and bumps, one misstep and I would fall. I have a habit of falling. My ankles are weak. But just one page in, and I would have gambled two sprained ankles without hesitation.
I read half of your book walking to campus. I read quickly. One and a half miles on foot equals one-half of your book. I would have finished your book on the walk home – that was my plan – but it started to storm. I hid your book inside my cardigan so it wouldn’t get soiled. I wanted to protect your words.
Books are replaceable, sure. But I wanted to finish your book.
Fully knowing I was soon going to be placed in the desert, I should’ve basked in the storm. I should’ve opened my arms and embraced each shard of rain, but I couldn’t, because weather was preventing me from doing what I wanted most: read.
And I got home safely. Your book was undamaged. I was soaked and cold, and so I read. I read in the claustrophobia of boxes of books, my books, piled as high as I am. But your book gave me comfort. In it, I found all my sadness in leaving, printed on the page. You wrote what I could hardly express. Thank you.
I am in the same city as you now. I saw you yesterday. Yesterday, the airline lost one of my bags, the bag that held an air mattress, my sheets, things necessary for sleep. Yesterday, in a panic, I contacted you, first, and begged for help. I didn’t need to beg, no, you offered, and within no time at all, you were here. In my new house. You brought your son. You brought me an air mattress and sheets. You, one of my biggest writing heroes, it’s hilarious, really, if you think about it. I would’ve slept on a damp carpet (it had just been washed the day before) last night had you not intervened.
Evan, I am a giddy schoolgirl with reckless excitement about living in a city with writers like me. This hasn’t happened since I was in my early twenties, and I didn’t know how exceptional that was. I didn’t appreciate it. But it hasn’t happened since. Now, I understand how rare this experience will be, how special it will be. And I have to be honest: I can’t wait. I can’t wait for the conversations we will have. I can’t wait to spend time with you and Carmen, Richard. Surely, I don’t expect we’ll share every meal and every coffee together, we have our own lives, but to be in the same space as you, it’s surreal.
Because Evan, I have to be honest, I’ve been a fan of yours for years. I’ve followed you in journals. And then From Old Notebooks came out. And then I met you for the first time at AWP last year, and you were kinder and more generous and more brilliant than I could’ve imagined. And then I visited Las Cruces, and you and Carmen met me with kindness and generosity and brilliance. And then I read Avatar and I was stunned. Literally silenced by it. I was in awe. And then I got here yesterday and texted you while I was waiting for my landlord to let me into my new house, and then you showed up with an armful of gear to allow me to sleep.
And there will be more books, and I can’t wait for you to write them and people to publish them. I can’t wait to read them and love them.
So often, I adore books and then I meet the author and it’s a total disaster. They are total disasters, and so am I. But you are just as profound and smart and elegant as your books. Thank you.