An opportunity to play geographer…

Reading time: About 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss an article written by Saul Austerlitz.

I read a New York Times Opinionator column headlined “The Lost Art of the Condolence Letter,” last month. From the tone, the skillful use of figurative language and the sentiment — that we should all recognize the “art” of condolence letters — I assumed the writer, Saul Austerlitz, to be a gentlemen approaching the downward slope of late middle-age.

Imagine my surprise when, after a quick bit of research on the Internet, I discovered his website and his photo that, to my untrained eye, makes him look no older than 35, if that.

Here’s where his work has been published: the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Boston GlobeSlate, the Village VoiceThe National, the San Francisco ChronicleSpinRolling StonePaste, and other publications.  He’s also written a book about sitcoms that sounds interesting: Sitcom: A History in 24 Episodes, from I Love Lucy to Community.

The man clearly has a knack for figurative language. Here is my favourite paragraph from his piece on condolence letters:

My friend was irreplaceable, and her death left a jagged hole I will spend the rest of my life tiptoeing around the edges of. Writing about her loss — to her husband, now a widower, and her mother — was an opportunity to play geographer, and draw a map of the contours of our shared sorrow.

Isn’t that beautiful writing? But, more than that, I appreciated the thought he put into his essay. I wonder if I suspected he was older because his writing suggested the maturity and experience of someone who had lived a relatively long life?

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