by Jo Ann Beard
(from The Best American Essays 2007)
Werner Hoeflich miraculously survives a devastating fire in his New York City apartment building, and in the chaos before and after his amazing leap to safety through a window of the neighboring building, his mind flashes to different episodes in his life.
Aside from the fact that I found myself hideously distracted by the fate of Werner's pet cat, this is a beautiful and disturbing essay. (The distraction was not the fault of the author. I am always distracted by animals in any story no matter how small their role, because I am always afraid they are only included to meet some horrible end. It's a personal paranoia.) This reads so much like a short story that I wished a little more information had been included regarding the origins of this piece of writing. The inner thoughts and emotions of Werner are so boldly exposed that I would have expected this to be either fiction or a personal memoir. It did have me spending a couple sleepless hours wondering how I would have handled the same situation. I'm not sure I could have saved myself or my cat. But I am certain that reevaluating my values in life would be a top priority if I managed to do so. Perhaps it would be best to do that without the prompting of a life-changing conflagration.
NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)
Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!