urlIn An Enlarged Heart, Cynthia Zarin writes well.


ed. note:

The reviewer has a personal relationship with Cynthia Zarin.

The reviewer was Zarin’s student and advisee at Yale in the spring of 2012.

As that semester began, Zarin was concerned that the reviewer had only taken writing courses with a single instructor to date. So Zarin enrolled the reviewer in her own non-fiction writing course, without leaving the reviewer much choice.

Zarin said the reviewer should not have “only one voice” in her head as she wrote; Zarin’s voice is now in the reviewer’s head, too.

The reviewer attended a gathering of classmates in Yale’s Writing Concentration Program, which Zarin coordinates. At the meeting, Zarin urged the students, nearly all of whom hope to be professional writers, to avoid careers in writing at all costs.

The reviewer found this depressing.

Nevertheless, the reviewer paid frequent visits to Zarin’s office. Mostly, Zarin told the reviewer to “condense” her writing. When the reviewer protested that it was already condensed, Zarin said to “condense some more.”

But there were other conversations: Zarin knows the reviewer’s longings and fears.

Before one class meeting, the reviewer asked Zarin if she needed anything, and Zarin said “how about a Diet Coke?” The reviewer was in fact just being polite. But she brought Zarin a Diet Coke.

Zarin has welcomed the reviewer into her home on several occasions. The reviewer feels safe and whole there.

The reviewer read Zarin’s essay from which this book takes its title in a college dining hall. The reviewer was struck; it took her two hours to get up from the table. The dining hall staff was displeased.

During finals, the reviewer arrived at a student reading without having slept, shaking, and on the verge of an anxious breakdown. Zarin took the reviewer by the shoulders, sat her down, and handed her a cup of ginger ale. The reviewer read.

In the late spring, we lost one of our own.
Zarin gathered her students and their parents in the garden behind her home. She read a poem. She said we must strive to write as well as we can, since our writing will be our legacy.
The reviewer knows Zarin is right.

The above may preclude the reviewer’s objectivity.


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