John Leonard

Another dead person whose work I miss

Just let me sleep, woman!

Just let me sleep, woman!

So I’m making my way through this forthcoming Raymond Carver biography, and really enjoying reading it alongside Where I’m Calling From, the stories in which, I think, are arranged chronologically. It’s interesting to see how Carver’s ideas and fears manifest themselves on the page. I hadn’t read Carver for a few years, so most of the stories seem pretty fresh. Also, I’m really amused by his dialogue, which could’ve been taken from my own life. For instance, in “The Student’s Wife,” Carver writes:

“I’d like us both just to live a good honest life without having to worry about money and bills and things like that. You’re asleep,” she said.

“I’m not,” he said.

“I can’t think of anything else. You go now. Tell me what you’d like.”

“I don’t know. Lots of things,” he mumbled.

Well, tell me. We’re just talking, aren’t we?”

“I wish you’d leave me along, Nan.” He turned over to his side of the bed again and let his arm rest off the edge. She turned too and pressed against him.


“Jesus,” he said. Then: “All right. Let me stretch my legs a minute, then I’ll wake up.”

In a while she said, “Mike? Are you asleep?” She shook his shoulder gently, but there was no response.

I mean, who hasn’t been there? Sometimes I just want to sleep and dream of sexy female robots and stealing a car and driving it down to Miami and joining the Hurricanes (a team I don’t even like, which makes the dream weirder) and picking off not one but two errantly thrown passes over the middle and returning them for touchdowns against hated rival Notre Dame, and I guess just not waking up to talk about life and stuff. Too much to ask at this hour goddammit?

But this post actually wasn’t about Carver or my aborted dreams of football glory. It was about the late John Leonard, who died late last year from lung cancer at the age of 69. Leonard’s book review section in Harper’s was always the first thing I turned to when I’d get the magazine. Guy always had quirky, wide-ranging book choices, and his reviews were beautifully written in their own right. Benjamin Moser has since taken over for Leonard, and I’m just having a really hard time getting excited for his New Books findings. It’s just not rocking. Anyone have any favorite reviewers?

Behind the Scenes & Excerpts / 7 Comments
October 19th, 2009 / 11:26 am