cover image The Narrow Door: A Memoir of Friendship

The Narrow Door: A Memoir of Friendship

Paul Lisicky. Graywolf, $16 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-55597-728-3

In this fluid, tender memoir of love and loss, novelist Lisicky (Famous Builder) chronicles the two longest relationships of his life: his deep friendship with the writer Denise Gess and his 15-year romance with a renowned poet, here referred to only as M. Written in nonlinear bursts that recall the way memories flit in and out of consciousness, Lisicky brings readers back to the early 1980s, when he was closeted and working as a teaching assistant. He was awed by Gess and her ability to command her students’ attention. She would go on to write well-regarded novels such as Good Deeds. The pair shared everything, but also felt inevitable competition when the balance of success shifted between them. Lisicky weaves in his reactions to natural disasters, such as the earthquake in Haiti and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, with Gess’s decline from cancer and the slow crumbling of his relationship with his husband. At the core of the triad formed by Lisicky and his two literary loves is a devotion to language and its ability to heal and harm. The bond he shared with Gess, though completely platonic, was as intimate as any marriage, and his musings on the ever-fluid nature of friendships, how they ebb and flow over years and surmount hurdles great and small, is breathtaking and heartbreaking. (Jan.)