A couple of weeks ago, on May 14, we lost Tom Wolfe, and then, the following week, on May 22, Philip Roth died. Roth was not nearly as big of an influence on me as Wolfe was, but that had more to do with the forms he worked in as opposed to actual writing. For whatever reason, Roth’s work didn’t speak to me in the late ’90s when his name started popping up on lists other writers would give me of people whose work I should be paying attention to. I tackled Sabbath’s Theater a couple of times, and American Pastoral when it came out in ’97. It was obvious he was an incredible talent, even if I wasn’t connecting with his work. But that was, of course, then…perhaps now is a good time to revisit his stuff.
Then on Friday came news that Anthony Bourdain hanged himself. To me, Mr. Bourdain was a writer who, incidentally, knew how to cook, and used food and cuisine as a sort of excuse to travel the world and write about life. Which was absolutely brilliant, because I’m guessing he figured his audience was composed of foodies, and since he’s got them sitting there listening, he’d insert a little message and meaning into everything he did, but those of us who read and followed him just because he was a brilliant writer found ourselves interested in trying new foods, and maybe (as was the my case), heading into the kitchen to learn/experiment. There’s a great deal of great things to be said about Anthony Bourdain, and people are saying it. Suffice it to say, this is a tragic loss of an all-too-rare American voice, and he will be very missed.
Then, on Friday night, another favorite writer and columnist, Charles Krauthammer, let the public know that after one hell of a battle with all manner of health issues for his entire adult life, that battle is over and his doctors have told him he has just weeks to live. He concluded with this:
I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.
My God. What class. I am envious: after all, what goal could one possibly have in life if not to be able to say that at the end of it: “I lived the life that I intended.”
I sure as hell can’t say that. Maybe that’s the point, if there is one to all the mortality that seems to be in the news these days: if you’re lucky enough to live long enough to find yourself horizontal with a tube in your nose looking back at everything, are you content, satisfied with what you did? Given whatever shitty hand of cards you were dealt, did you do what you could with what you were given?
Or maybe that isn’t the point. Maybe, as I have suspected for a while now, there is no point. Who knows. I certainly don’t. I do know there is desk whiskey. I shall now raise one to Mr. Wolfe, another to Mr. Roth, another to Mr. Bourdain, and another to Mr. Krauthammer, that last one hoping against hope that he’ll get to stick around with us a bit longer.
N.P.: “Set Me Free” – In Strict Confidence