Light Years

Light Years

by Le Anne Schreiber
     
 

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In this searching memoir, Le Anne Schreiber explores the shifts of perspective that accompany a growing intimacy with death. Deeply moving, graced with subtle intelligence and humor, Light Years looks mortality in the eye and stares it down. In the background are three deaths occurring over five years—those of the author's mother, father, and brother.

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Overview

In this searching memoir, Le Anne Schreiber explores the shifts of perspective that accompany a growing intimacy with death. Deeply moving, graced with subtle intelligence and humor, Light Years looks mortality in the eye and stares it down. In the background are three deaths occurring over five years—those of the author's mother, father, and brother. In the foreground are stories of certain simple elements of her life during this period—of a barn cat, impaled by a hunter's arrow, that she patiently nurses back to health; of a trout stream, whose raging waters thwart her attempt to release her father's ashes; of an overgrown acre that stubbornly refuses to be tamed.

Gradually, she traces the impact of these deaths on her understanding of such basic concepts as home, time, and territory, and her own textured past. Searching throughout this remarkable book for this-worldly sources of consolation, she finds them in unexpected places: long swims, a dream, an ancient oak, a book on Einstein, the view from a nearby hilltop.

Light Years bears witness to the shock of death, but even more to a vital and questing inner life, a rare triumph of understanding, and the discovery of vast open horizons, only light years away. This unforgettable memoir is filled with light.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This small and intimate book conjures up an essential image of a writer, full of perceptions and a wealth of memories, sitting alone at a desk crafting them into carefully honed sentences alive with sudden, sometimes painful insights. Schreiber probably writes with a computer, yet her readers will picture her by an open window with a pad and pencil or at most a manual typewriter. After leaving the hectic world of Manhattan journalism (sports editor of the New York Times, then an editor of the Book Review), Schreiber chose to live in the quiet Columbia County community of Ancram in upstate New York. She learned to accept being an outsider, to relish the growth of milkweed and the arrival of the monarch butterflies. She also draws on her surroundings and the personality of her old house to accept the deaths of her mother and father, followed by that of her only brother. Inevitably, this leads her to the contemplation of her own mortality. This is spare and intense writing that speculates about why we are the way we are, and how we are formed by our own thoughts. Few have either the aptitude or the opportunity for such reflection. To share it is a rare privilege. First serial to Glamour; author tour. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Journalist Schreiber, who won the 1992 National Magazine Award for public interest journalism and formerly worked for the New York Times, lost her familymother, father, then brotherin the short space of five years. Her beautifully written memoir describes how she came to terms with the "personal hurricane" that devastated her life. Her writing, whatever the subject at hand, engages the reader and encourages further reading. Schreiber finds consolation in a moonlit night on a mountaintop, swimming stroke after stroke through glassy water, contemporary physics, a stray fact about monarch migration, a Matthew Arnold poem. Her memoir is more about beauty and life than death: "Being outdoors on a sunlit day is the only self-justifying state of existence I know." Full of light, this memoir is of interest to public, academic and some special libraries.Nancy P. Shires, East Carolina Univ., Greenville, N.C.
Kirkus Reviews
Soulful, elegant memoirs from Schreiber (Midstream, 1990) that are everywhere touched by death.

A decade back Schreiber moved, solo, from Manhattan to Columbia County in not-too-far-upstate New York. She wanted time for herself; she wanted sunlight; she wanted to write and read. She starts these memoirs with getting to know the wildlands that compose half of her one-acre patch, with the nearby trout waters and the little town of Ancram. She develops a highly communicative if reluctant relationship with a stray cat. She takes on, again reluctantly, the town's main source of employment and its main source of pollution, a smoke-belching, stinking paper mill. In the midst of these episodes, in one godawful five-year stretch, her entire family dies: first her mother, followed by her father, then her 50-year-old brother. She weaves these people in and out of her writing (she sees her mother in the blue eyes of the cat, is prompted to confront the paper mill because she had promised to bury her father in the stream it was befouling) and in the process stirs up feelings of loss and recovery. The second half of the book is less immediate—the scope here goes beyond Ancram, into youth and aging and mortality, aloneness and bliss and the strange world of dreams. But it is no less searching. The author won't stand for living with illusions and gives death more than a once-over. Wondrously, she retains a sense of humor and playfulness. Imagery and lyricism seem to come naturally to Schreiber; she delights in a school of little bluefish swimming through her preternaturally clear reflection on a lake surface.

Only a tough customer could survive this emotional milling; only a fine talent could write about it so potently.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385489430
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/28/1997
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
1,398,964
Product dimensions:
5.19(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.40(d)

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