“How does the heart bear unbidden shock? What are the rules of engagement with ferocious memories? These gorgeous essays perform acts of homage, bravery, and forgiveness; show what can be made of the searing left by life-altering experiences; and point us toward a deeper understanding of both vulnerability and the capacity to rebuild at the blast site.” —Lia Purpura
“Don’t Look Now: Things We Wish We Hadn’t Seen merits its title—a series of scarifying essays on sights, scenes, and memories we might have rather missed. But this not-to-be-missed collection becomes its own bright antidote and, for the reader, a gift.” —Nicholas Delbanco, author of Why Writing Matters and Curiouser and Curiouser: Essays (OSU Press, 2017)
“A typewriter tattoo, the body bent in prayer, the hazy outline on an ultrasound screen—these are some of the stark and humbling and heartbreaking images shared in an anthology of voices so rich and varied. Even more than the moments these writers can’t unsee, this haunting collection of essays will stay with you too.” —Sonja Livingston, author of Ghostbread
Would that our memories were self-selecting. But often what we remember most, and most vividly, are those moments that caught us unawares: the things we wish we hadn’t seen and have never been able to shake. This group of prominent American writers tries to come to grips with obsessive memory, the uncanny, and the bad dreams that accompany the moments in our lives when we wish we’d looked away, the places we wish we’d never been, and the scenes we wish we’d never stumbled upon.
Featuring essays by Jericho Parms, XU XI, Jerald Walker, José Orduña, Kristen Iversen, Nicole Walker, Mary Cappello, Lina Ferreira, Colleen O’Connor, Sonya Huber, Paul Crenshaw, Alyce Miller, Patrick Madden, Amelia María de la Luz Montes, Yalie Kamara, Emily Heiden, Lee Martin, and David Lazar, this collection bares all. The authors invite readers into a dream that resurrects a departed mother each night, only to lose her again each morning upon waking; the post-mortem newspaper photos of a former student; kaleidoscope childhood memories of the mundane mixed up together with the traumatic; an unplanned pregnancy; a bullfight and a spouse’s mortality; a teen witnessing the suicide of her father; a parent trying to shield his children from witnessing a violent death. What these writers are after, though, is not the melancholic/grotesque/violent moment itself, but the process of remembering—and trying to forget. They examine the way these memories take hold, resurface, and never leave, and what it means for a life lived long after these moments have passed. These scenes, slowly enfolding us like bad dreams or flying by like trains on elevated platforms, demand we reach some kind of accommodation with them—make peace or make sense or make amends. The one thing they insist with certainty is this: they cannot—will not—be unseen.
Kristen Iversen is the author, most recently, of Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats. She is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Cincinnati and serves as Literary Nonfiction editor of the Cincinnati Review. Iversen is currently a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Bergen.
David Lazar is the author of the soon to be released Celeste Holm Syndrome. He is Professor of Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago and a former Guggenheim Fellow in Nonfiction. Lazar is the founding editor of the literary magazine Hotel Amerika and series coeditor of 21st Century Essays at Mad Creek Books.
David Lazar and Kristen Iversen
But for the Grace
Love and Death in Mexico
To Love Me, Or the Intruder’s Tattoo
The Red Parakeet
Those Were the Days
The Death of the Dog
Amelia María de la Luz Montes
Scenes from July 2013
Can You Tell Me What You Saw?
Muse of Brooklyn: I Would Never Study but in My Dreams