Still No Word from You
Notes in the Margin
by Peter Orner
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Pub Date 11 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 03 Oct 2022
Stationed in the South Pacific during World War II, Seymour Orner wrote a letter every day to his wife, Lorraine. She seldom responded, leading him to plead in 1945, “Another day and still no word from you.” Seventy years later, Peter Orner writes in response to his grandfather’s plea: “Maybe we read because we seek that word from someone, from anyone.”
From the acclaimed fiction writer about whom Dwight Garner of The New York Times wrote, “You know from the second you pick him up that he’s the real deal,” comes Still No Word from You, a unique chain of essays and intimate stories that meld the lived life and the reading life. For Orner, there is no separation. Covering such well-known writers as Lorraine Hansberry, Primo Levi, and Marilynne Robinson, as well as other greats like Maeve Brennan and James Alan McPherson, Orner’s highly personal take on literature alternates with his own true stories of loss and love, hope and despair. In his mother’s copy of A Coney Island of the Mind, he’s stopped short by a single word in the margin, “YES!”—which leads him to conjure his mother at twenty-three. He stops reading Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Beginning of Spring three quarters of the way through because he knows that finishing the novel will leave him bereft. Orner’s solution is to start again from the beginning to slow the inevitable heartache.
Still No Word from You is a book for anyone for whom reading is as essential as breathing.
A Literary Hub Most Anticipated Book of the Year
"Pushcart Prize–winning fiction writer Orner (Maggie Brown & Others) brings his lyrical, mosaic style to the story of his own life in this gorgeous and contemplative memoir. Blending photographs, family lore, speculation, and literary musings, Orner’s nonlinear narrative weaves through elliptical reflections and faint memories from his 1970s childhood to the sorrows and delights of his adulthood . . . When his fragmented ruminations loop back to a powerful impression or image or favorite book, the effect is like turning over a prism in one’s hands, catching vivid flashes of light at each angle. Evocative and erudite, this meditation on impermanence and its ephemeral joys is a gem."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Orner—a legitimate triple-threat: novelist, short story master, and prolific essayist—returns with an addictive collection of more than 100 buoyant essays organized around a single day and a wide range of emotions . . . [A] wise, welcoming, heartfelt book."
—Kirkus (starred review)
“What to call this gloriously strange marvel of a book devoted to other books? Who cares? Still No Word from You offers solace to those among us who look out windows, whose minds wander, who are bewildered by time and memory. It is an elegy to long-gone houses, bookstores, teachers, family, writers, and all of the murmuring dead; an ode to the parenthetical, which, it turns out, is not parenthetical at all; a beautiful testament to the way the books we love are not merely as real as life, they are life.”
—Maud Casey, author of City of Incurable Women
“Still No Word from You is a sharp-edged and heartfelt mosaic of the reading life. I know of no other writer working today who so exquisitely and seamlessly brings together storytelling, memoir, essay, and the act of reading as both a visionary and an intimate journey.”
—Eduardo Halfon, author of Mourning
“This is a unique concoction, with essays bleeding into stories, and coming out the other side, and creating something new. Still No Word from You is a beautiful piece of work that demonstrates the special illumination on life granted by a passion for reading.”
—Kevin Barry, author of Night Boat to Tangier
"Peter Orner's work clings close to life, to the unadorned, untranscended, dear and haunting Actual." —Marilynne Robinson
"Peter Orner is a writer’s writer . . .Since all writers are also readers, his fans should particularly appreciate this volume of essays and other musings on the writing life, the reading life, and the living life, which are all, of course, inseparable. I am very much looking forward to living inside Orner’s brain (and bookshelf) for a while."
—Emily Temple, Literary Hub
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