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Karen Green writing on David Foster Wallace: 'an instant classic'

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(Read caption) 'Bough Down' – a collection of poems and small postage stamp-sized collages – is Karen Green's first book.

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It’s been called “an instant classic,” “an astonishment,” and “one of the most moving, strange, original, harrowing, and beautiful documents of grief and reckoning.”

“Bough Down,” artist Karen Green’s collection of poems and collages of grief following the death of her husband, the writer David Foster Wallace, is garnering attention and excellent reviews five years after Wallace committed suicide at their home in 2008.

The delicate, vellum-wrapped volume is Green’s first book. A collection of poems and small postage stamp-sized collages by the artist, it was published earlier this spring by Siglo Press.

Green’s writing is at once unsentimental and haunting. 

“I worry I broke your kneecaps when I cut you down,” she writes of finding Wallace’s body hanging on their patio. “I keep hearing that sound.” 

In a touching show of tenderness, she recalls the small, mundane details of her husband’s life throughout the book – Wallace looking for his glasses, getting spinach stuck between his teeth, telling Green she smells “agathokakological.”

“There are traces of him everywhere,” writes the LA Times. “[A] bag scented by his American Spirits, some leftover pills that she pops in desperate moments, the dogs he treasured... His ashes sit ‘in a foil-wrapped box next to portraits of our moms, reflecting sunlight.’”

“I keep your deodorant, which I use sparingly,” Green writes. “I make a slimy mustache with it before I tuck in.”

Her simple, yet sublime, recollections are garnering laudatory reviews for “Bough Down.”

“Ms Green turns out to be a profoundly good writer,” writes the Wall Street Journal. “’Bough Down’ is lovely, smart and funny, in addition to being brutally clear and sad.... Ms Green registers the complexity of grief and in the process makes something beautiful out of the saddest stuff in the world.”

Green “enacts Auden's definition of poetry: ‘the clear expression of mixed feelings,’” writes the LA Times.

And the LA Review of Books calls her memoir “wise, open, intelligent, and pained,” one of the most “beautiful documents of grief and reckoning I’ve ever read.”

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.


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