I’ve fallen in love with Peter Rock’s new novel, The Night Swimmers. It’s a thoroughly engrossing confluence of novel, memoir, and collage, full of obsessions and notes, curiosity and love. The book is about a young man, who returns to his parent’s home after college. He wants to be a writer and his writing is often performative, he imagines neighbors seeing him, seated beneath a lamp, working, and he loves the idea that people may talk of him as ‘the writer.’ He begins taking epic lake swims at night, and finds a companion in Mrs. Abel, a young widow.
“When she turned, her foot gently kicked, brushed my ribs, and then we were heading out further, deeper… We found our rhythm again, the slight chill of the water receding with the effort. The blackness below, the darkness above, the way they blended together and time stretched. I could not keep count of my strokes. And then Mrs. Able was no longer there, and I stopped, and spun, trying to find her. The stars, the horizon, lights that could be boats or more stars.”
The novel performs a mesmerizing trick, pulling me into this liminal space between memory and history, between youth and adulthood. Man! Everything I’m writing here sounds so book review-y and doesn’t do Pete’s work justice. Please, just go buy it.
Here’s a quote I shared with my students from The Night Swimmers that moved and inspired us all.
“Around that time, that summer, I remember telling someone that I wanted every story I wrote to say this, implicitly, to the reader:
I’m coming to your house.
I thought that was an impressive thing to say, and I said it to impress this person, this young woman; in truth, I think I also believed it, that this kind of insistence was something to desire, a necessity.
Now over twenty years later, my declaration has changed:
Will you please come along with me? I would like company. I’m uncertain where I’m going and I’m a little frightened.”
I asked my students to write what they want to say to their readers and it led to a terrific discussion, mostly about connection, about hearing and being heard, about presence and holding space.
I thought about my readers, and what I wanted to say to them. Something like, “I think we need each other.” Or, “Pull up a chair, relax here with me, let’s have some laughs, because life, it turns out, is hard.” How about you?
Made this twice in the last 10 days, both times to feed a crowd at a dinner party, and both times it was a hit! So easy and so delicious! Be certain to cook the onions on their own first, you want them to nearly caramelize and that takes longer than the chicken takes to cook through. Give it about 15 minutes w/just onions, oil, and herbs on the sheet pan. I made it once with boneless skinless breasts, and once with bone in thighs and breasts. It was great all ways, just adjust the cooking time. We served roasted asparagus, a salad of tossed greens, and crusty bread alongside.
I’ve been pretty ecstatic about the blue skies, sunshine, asparagus, and spring onions. I want everything on my plate to be the color of new leaves. This pesto/change-o was fantastic. Who would’ve thought of using broccoli and mint? Genius! I served it with a lovely piece of grilled steelhead and my plate was the exact colors of the tile in our first kitchen. You remember, that slight variation of sage and inside-of-your-cheek pink? All the rage in the 90s.
Read this lovely little essay by Gabrielle Hamilton in the Sunday Magazine. The recipe sounds intense and indispensable! “When you eat it straight it can really punch you in the face.” How, umm… enticing? Will you try it? I certainly will.