‘Still No Word from You’: Peter Orner’s essay memoir is a tribute to books and the life of reading

Peter Orner’s new essay memoir is a book about many other books. But it is also a book of personal stories. Peter Orner is our guide through poignant and powerful works of literature where the mundane moments of a single day resonate and blossom into memorable experiences of a lifetime and a specific little place on a map can be any place in the whole world.

Highlights of the interview with Peter Orner

Where Peter Orner does much of his writing

I have a small studio in an old railroad hotel in White River Junction, Vermont. A lot of this book was written during the pandemic, obviously, which is still going on, but a lot of it was written during the height of the pandemic when we were in lockdown. There was a mandate… that only essential workers could move. And I wasn’t an essential worker… So I walked into the hotel where I was completely alone in this ramshackle old hotel, looking like “The Shining”. And I’d just be sitting there, you know, the only person. And it was weird, and it was quiet and lonely, and I loved it… And this book comes from that sensibility… alone in a big, old hotel.

On “The Woman on the Bridge Over the Chicago River” by Allen Grossman

The title of this poem speaks for itself, doesn’t it? “The woman on the bridge over the Chicago River.” It’s a poem about crying, and it starts, everything is crying. The trees weep, the grass weeps, the wind weeps, the sun weeps. Everything is crying… the moon is crying. Everything is crying. Insects cry, horses cry… Then the poem shifts from all that crying to a very specific case of crying where the poet remembers, as a young boy, seeing a woman standing on the bridge over the Chicago River and cry in the river. It’s just an image that has marked him all these years. It made me think about what that kind of heartbreak means when you let it go and where you are doesn’t matter. And I think this poem sort of speaks to that.

Calling “Still No Word from You: Notes in the Margin” a “memoir”.

I run away from the word “memory”, but then I realize that, yes, it is. It’s just not what you might normally consider to be. I’ve used that phrase before and think I may be overusing it, but the idea of ​​some sort of “reluctant” memory, at least that’s what the last one (“Am I alone here ?: Notes on Life to Read and Read to Live”) was. I don’t think this one was really reluctant. It’s an acknowledgment that reading and reflecting on other people’s words is intrinsic to my own existence… intrinsic to my own walk, let’s say. You know, it’s just constant. I have a friend, my good friend, she was a yoga teacher and she always tells me, “You know, you don’t live in the present. And I say, “Exactly right. It’s like my everything, it’s not about living in the present. But in a way, the reading that I do and the reading that you do and the reading, maybe someone who listens is, I’m sure, as much a part of the forward momentum of their life as anything else.

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