Kathryn Schulz on the Interplay of Joy and Grief in Our Lives
This Week on the Book Dreams Podcast
“I think a lot about how to map the scale of our own lives against the scale of existence.”
Not long after Kathryn Schulz fell in love with the woman she would marry, her beloved father died. Now she’s written a memoir, Lost & Found, in which she shares these deeply personal stories and expands them into a consideration of the ways that loss and discovery and joy and grief affect, and intermingle in, all of our lives. In our Book Dreams conversation with Kathryn, we discuss everything from the jaw-droppingly fascinating childhood of Kathryn’s father, to the surprisingly rich history—and all-too-often overlooked complexity—of the word “and,” to the meaning that scarcity bestows on life.
From the episode:
Kathryn: I think it is both regrettable, but also not accidental, that we experience almost all things as more precious when they’re in shorter supply. There’s a reason why sapphires are more valuable unto us than pencil erasers. Their scarcity has the quality of making us realize the sort of wonderful and beautiful and dazzling features of something.
I have this baby daughter, and it’s actually brutally horrible to think about mortality in the face of this gorgeous new baby of mine—my mortality, her mortality, mortality in general. And yet it’s so clear that some of what makes the experience of motherhood so precious, in the same way that some of what makes the experience of being a daughter so precious, and the experience of falling in love and being a partner so precious, is this sense that this has been given unto me, by whatever force you yourself may choose to believe in. But this is mine for now. It’s mine to protect, it’s mine to cherish, it’s mine to notice and to revel in every detail of it.
Why would we revel in every detail of something we were gonna have forever and ever? Why would we be moved to tears by how beautiful that moment is when a baby first laughs, if we could have infinity babies because we could live forever and ever? I don’t think you can decouple the sense of something as unbelievably valuable from the awareness that it is not ours to have forever.
Kathryn Schulz has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2015. In 2016, she won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing and a National Magazine Award for “The Really Big One,” an article about seismic risk in the Pacific Northwest. Her memoir Lost & Found grew out of a piece called “Losing Streak,” which was originally published in The New Yorker and later anthologized in The Best American Essays. Her other essays and reporting have appeared in The Best American Science and Nature Writing, The Best American Travel Writing, and The Best American Food Writing. Kathryn is also the author of the bestselling book Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin.
Book Dreams is a podcast for everyone who loves books and misses English class. Co-hosted by Julie Sternberg and Eve Yohalem, Book Dreams releases new episodes every Thursday. Each episode explores book-related topics you can’t stop thinking about—whether you know it yet or not.