December 2nd, 2009



Robert Holdstock died a few days ago. I have never read his books, but I rather think I should, having read about them all over the internet after his death. They sound like something I'd love. But we do share an agent, and thus I received an email talking about his life and death, which contained the chilling note that he was bursting with unwritten books, and how often he spoke of the books he had yet to write. That is heartbreaking, beyond any love I have read of his books, that there was so much left in him and he will never get to write those books.

It's what I fear, what I imagine many of us fear. Once, I was asked one of those silly questions: if you knew you only had a year to live, what would you do?

I said: write faster.

The idea of my agent sending out an email full of kindness about the books I never got to write fills me with horror. I can't even imagine how awful this author's family must feel, and I've seen the grief of his readers. But for me, who never knew him, that email sticks hard against my ribs.

Then, last night, I found out that Milorad Pavic died.

I haven't seen anyone talk about it. Pavic was one of my favorite writers. I passionately adore his books. I hoped against hope that I might meet him someday, and in my broken Russian (he's Serbian but his website makes it clear that he spoke at least some Russian, and he spoke no English) how much his novels have meant to me. I was heartbroken. Pavic wrote a lot of books, and died at 80--that's a long life by any account. But still, to have him not in the world--part of me is sad that the world can just go on without him in it.

Of course I am selfish. I wanted to read more Pavic books. I didn't know him. Part of me feels like I should have tried harder to make that happen, since being an author means being part of a network whereby most other authors can be contacted.

But it's harrowing and hollowing, to lose these people, to keep living in the world when they are gone.

I'll miss you, Milorad. Though we never met, I loved your books like parents.
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