Filed under: Favorite Longreads | Tags: chronicle of a tragedy foretold, gayl jones, longreads, peter manso, reading
Check back every Wednesday for a link to a new longread. Your thoughts on this week’s read, and suggestions for future articles and essays, are always welcome!
Gayl Jones, author of Eva’s Man and Corregidora, is no question one of the best American writers of recent memory. Her work is at times overpowering, horrifying, grotesque, but the attention she pays to relations between men and women, the passing down of history (cultural, familial and personal), and the ways she imbues her texts with the blues have given us works that are stunning both in meaning and in form.
This makes the 1998 New York Times piece on Jones and her husband, Bob Higgins, all the harder to read. Jones is a reclusive writer who rarely gives readings and handles many necessary communications by email rather than phone, but the publication of her then-new novel The Healing brought media notice. Articles on The Healing precipitated events that led to her and her husband barricading themselves inside their home as police attempted to gain entrance and ascertain whether the Joneses planned to kill themselves or neighbors. When the police finally entered the home, Higgins “thrust one of the knives into his throat with such force that it lodged in his spine.”
Peter Manso’s “Chronicle of a Tragedy Fortold” considers the day of Higgins’s suicide, Jones’s upbringing and education, and the sometimes parallel development of Jones’s relation with Higgins and her novels. How Jones, referred to by Manso as the “brilliant black writer,” fell under the spell of the unstable Higgins is a disturbing and necessary read. It’s a story that ought only to exist as fiction, all the more so because so many of Jones’s own works take such unbalanced relationships as their subject.