Stacey D’Erasmo

Stacey D’Erasmo writes:

“The three books I’ve chosen below are all masterpieces of passionate friendship. Most, if not all, of us have had life-changing friendships, but it’s rare to see these relationships explored with as much depth, nuance, and raw emotion as they are in these books, all of which are beloved to me.”

My Brilliant Friend
By Elena Ferrante
“The story of two working-class girls growing up in a rough neighborhood in Naples in the 1950s, this novel is piercingly tender and unsparingly honest in its insights about girlhood, class, the liberation as well as the unexpected price of education, and the thick, glorious, wounding culture of a small place. Ferrante is a brilliant psychologist; nothing that happens between these two girls who are intertwined for life can be easily sorted. They are, by turns, one another’s best friend, deepest love, worst enemy, and truest mirror. I’ve already torn through The Story of a New Name, the second book of this friendship trilogy. Can’t wait for the third to be translated into English.”

The House in Paris
By Elizabeth Bowen

“Instead of concerning a lifelong friendship of people from one highly particular place, this novel concerns an afternoon’s encounter between two children, a boy and a girl, both of whom are in transit, left at a house in Paris that is home to neither of them by variously wayward and ruined parents. Among the many extraordinary sentences here: “There is no end to the violations committed by children on children, quietly talking alone.” And yet, what passes between the highly sensitive Leopold and Henrietta on this day is more salvation through empathy than violation. Bowen’s prose is at its layered peak in this novel, which finds language for the oceanic feeling that children possess but often can’t articulate. It wouldn’t be right to say that Leopold and Henrietta fall in love; they don’t. But they come to understand what love is in one another’s company on this day.”

Just Kids
By Patti Smith

“What’s myth, what’s wavy memory, and what’s fact in this enchanting memoir of the friendship between Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith, from 1969 until Mapplethorpe’s death of AIDS in 1989? It hardly matters, and, in fact, part of what makes this book so moving is that Smith creates an aria for two, an aria of passionate friendship, not a document. At one point, Mapplethorpe told his Catholic parents that he and Smith had gotten married rather than just living together, which was on the one hand a lie but on the other hand spoke a deeper truth. Although they were both committed to other men in their lives, they were married by their love for one another and for art from the moment they met. An elegy of surpassing beauty.”