Stanley Crawford is one of our great, uncompromising prose writers and he has outdone himself here. Heartbreaking and profound, Intimacy is the most beautifully written novel I’ve read in years.
In this melancholy novel about a man on the brink of suicide, Stanley Crawford allows readers to question what it really means to be close to a person. Intimacy follows an unnamed narrator planning his own death. His preparations become a trigger and occasion for him to revisit key moments in his life and his material possessions, which are the solid artifacts from his life’s journey.
As sparrows in flight might form a single arrow, the life of the narrator comes into focus as a collage of fleeting events and images. Readers gain insights into tiny moments that slowly build into a picture of a man who seems to have very little, aside from material possessions, to lose.
The narrative pulls the reader along a trail of digressions — about running shoes, about the symbolism of rings — that lead down a proverbial rabbit hole until we realize the narrator’s intentions. Despite our lack of concrete knowledge about the narrator’s life, he allows us to share his thought processes: how every thought leads to the next, how memories seep upward when he picks up a particular T-shirt, or when he glimpses his car keys. And alongside our growing understanding of the narrator comes a recognition of our own thought processes: how we, like him, relate to our bodies; how we, too, cannot break away from the constant motion of our thoughts.
Intimacy is a brief, intense novel charged with the heightened sense of closeness that comes from watching a man’s last hours. It illuminates how brief snapshots of memory can trace the outline of an entire life.
This book requires readers to take their time. Some of the writing may a bit ponderous, but it is a worthwhile experience getting inside this man’s head.
I have loved Stanley Crawford’s novels since I first discovered them two decades ago. Intimacy is a meticulous, beautiful, and moving addition to his amazing body of work.
Seed is one of the finest novels I have ever read.
Seed is the story of Bill Starr’s final days. Childless but with a lifetime’s worth of possessions and a nearly infinite web of extended family, Bill endeavors to empty his house completely before he dies by summoning distant relatives to claim their inheritance. Many of his letters go unanswered, but those who do appear show up only to find that their reward is often much less valuable than they might expect.
What they get instead are Bill’s memories, made vivid by each item from the past, memories that are more exotic and curious than the lives currently lived by his young relatives.
Accompanied by his housekeeper, Ramona, and his young gardener, Jonathan, Bill is a somewhat cantankerous, wildly intelligent, and often forgetful man who recalls and speaks to his passed wife, often thinking that she’s not dead. His unwillingness to recognize what has happened to her and to give away his only possession of any value, a 1937 Pierce-Arrow automobile that they bought together, becomes the measure of his grief and of his love in this profoundly funny novel that faces death and love sincerely.
Seed is an anti-quest narrative: our hero sleeps, aggrieved, in his chair, dreaming of shedding possessions. He is ferocious, uncertain, disheveled, a spirit kindred to Unguentine, a mess, and easy to love. Another brilliant and hilarious novel by a great American writer.
Stanley Crawford has given us this masterwork, a book so funny, so generous, and so perceptive that it feels like an unforgettable evening spent with your family’s weirdest and wisest scion. Seed shows us that the twilight we must face — both individually and as an empire — can be more illuminating than our most verdant noon.