“Epistolary Climax”: Reaction Shot, Take Two (w/ Update)

By Kathryn Comment


During the weeks I was working on this article, he answered the questions that were put to him and reported on his whereabouts on a nearly daily basis; indeed, sometimes on an hourly basis. A kind of epistolary climax was reached one Sunday earlier this month, when I received a total of 19 e-mail messages from him…

While my reaction to Deborah Solomon’s profile of Jonathan Safran Foer stressed the profile’s most unattractive aspects, I’ve noticed that other bloggers’ commentaries instead stressed Solomon’s mortifying attraction to JSF.

Gawker, for example, characterizes the profile as “a (teen-age) romance with subject and author falling deeper in love with each feverish email and fleeting encounter.” Similarly, Rake’s Progress compares reading the profile to drunkenly opening a door at a college party and “[witnessing] some sweaty intimacy in a back bedroom, something you should not have been privy to.” Return of the Reluctant takes a slightly less judgmental approach, imagining Solomon’s love from the profiler’s perspective:

My friends had warned me of Fatal Attraction types, but there was something of the easy conquest represented in the 150 e-mail messages he sent me every hour. I did everything in my power to resist his attraction, even comparing him to Liberace. But I realized that I could not resist the man who had penned Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

But is JSF’s love for Solomon earnest or is he simply, as one reader intimates, a one-handed “epistolary climax” addict? According to that very anon reader,

JSF wheedled an invitation to house-sit an older author and editor’s apartment while the gent was out of town and then rifled through his rolodex to fire off unctuous, nearly-identical fan letters to all the writers therein.

(On that note: who knows what icky stuff infrared light might find on JSF’s collection of blank pages…)

UPDATE: Tom Scocca imagines Foer’s post-profile emails to Solomon in the NY Observer.

…No. 15: That was a beautiful passage you wrote, about how when we said goodbye at 4 p.m., “the fading daylight lent the moment a veiled, elegiac feeling, an unsettling suggestion of oblivion.” Sometimes I weep at the end of the day. And I wonder: Is the sun truly going away from us, or are we the ones who are going away from it?

…No. 120: I was walking George in the park again earlier this hour when she suddenly lunged and gobbled up half the remains of a dead squirrel. Five minutes later, she vomited it all over the grass. She vomited it up so easily and nonchalantly, it gave me a pang. Dogs have such pure, honest reactions to things–both coming and going.

…No. 338: Wrting this on my new BlackBerry frmo the bathroom. I’m hvaing a little troouble getting used to thesse tiny keys. But it occurred to me that every trip to the bathroom is a little act of letting go. I needed to tell you that.

… No. 627: I told you that I wished I could talk like a black person. It’s more than that, really: I wish, in the give and take between us, that I could give myself to you as a strong black man. You could receive my thoughts as if I were making strong love to you on satin sheets with the music of Barry White or Marvin Gaye playing–making love to you with my large penis, which would not be an offensive racial stereotype yet would be a penis of unmistakable substance. Instead I feel as if I’m humping away in a rabbity fashion on a futon, after a dinner of takeout Italian, with Dido on the stereo, and I’m hoping to make up for my shortcomings with earnest cunnilingus in a little while. This is all just a figure of speech!