The Narrow Door

Title:
The Narrow Door
A Memoir of Friendship
Paul Lisicky
Price$16.00
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“A rare look into the friendships writers form with people they may end up competing with for the same posts, publishers, and prizes—and an even rarer look into the life of a significant writer who lived with and loved another significant writer for 15 years. . . . An elegy, an apologia, and a triumph.”—Alexander Chee, The New York Times Book Review

One of Shelf Awareness' Best Books of 2016

About the Book

A deeply moving memoir of friendship, from the author of The Burning House and Famous Builder
In The Narrow Door, Paul Lisicky creates a compelling collage of scenes and images drawn from two long-term relationships, one with a woman novelist and the other with his ex-husband, a poet. The contours of these relationships shift constantly. Denise and Paul, stretched by the demands of their writing lives, drift apart, and Paul’s romance begins to falter. And the world around them is frail: environmental catastrophes like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, natural disasters like the earthquake in Haiti, and local disturbances make an unsettling backdrop to the pressing concerns of Denise’s cancer diagnosis and Paul’s impending breakup. Lisicky’s compassionate heart and resilience seem all the stronger in the face of such searing losses. His survival—hard-won, unsentimental, authentic—proves that in turning toward loss, we embrace life.

Additional Reviews

“Elegant, precise, and sensitive.”—Katy Waldman, Slate

“Mr. Lisicky has a gift for understanding suffering, an added bundle of receptors for detecting loneliness.”The New York Times

“The story of any great friendship is a bit like the story of being in love, just as the story of a long life might eventually lead to its end. It’s Lisicky's radical honesty about all this—life and death, friendship and lost love, ambition and failure—that makes this book so special and at times so unsettling.”Los Angeles Times

“You know when you’re reading an exceptional book when, approximately two sentences into it, you start panicking at the thought of its ending. Be forewarned: This is likely to happen to you, as it did to me, reading the opening pages of The Narrow Door, the achingly gorgeous, wildly ambitious memoir by Paul Lisicky. You know you’re reviewing an exceptional book when the best way to make your case, to convince your readers to run out and read it, is to quote at length from its pages, starting with page one, sentence one.”—Chicago Tribune

The Narrow Door is literary, smart and poignant, an extended eulogy for a friend and a meditation on friendship.”Shelf Awareness

“The friendship Lisicky conjures [in The Narrow Door] is a relationship in the fullest sense—intoxicating, brutal, draining and sustaining.”San Francisco Chronicle

“By turns raw, wry, and meditative, Lisicky offers a painfully honest accounting of his own failures and limitations; ultimately, this is the story of how a heart opens, and the endless, literally death-defying work of keeping it that way.”Boston Globe

“By the time I finished the first chapter of Paul Lisicky’s lyrical new memoir, I was certain this was an essential book.”Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

“Lisicky’s hat as a poet comes to bear great gifts in this memoir.”—The Rumpus

“The work achieves something rare: the prose is stunningly beautiful on the sentence level, shot through with ache and loss, yet at the same time, it’s totally unsentimental. The Narrow Door is a poignant and straightforward contemplation of the fluidity of love and trust, and an investigation of what we give each other and why."Los Angeles Review of Books

“Lisicky manages to craft a boggling, anachronistic portrait of a dynamic artist (himself) who is transformed with each shifting thought, roles morphing and reversed depending on which conversation is at hand, which inkling of an idea decides to grow legs and dominate.”Flavorwire

“[Paul Lisicky] believes in fearlessly writing in the moment. In doing so, he captures the raw beauty of the daily friction between moments of pleasure and challenge. The immediacy of his work allows for joy as well as gravity."Guernica

"Breathtaking and heartbreaking."Publishers Weekly

“Lisicky realized a painful truth. The closer he got to people, the more he had to acknowledge their freedom to die and/or leave him. With empathy and emotional finesse, the author renders the fragility of interpersonal connections, and he offers insight into the complicated nature of the human heart. Honest and compassionate.”Kirkus Reviews

“Bravely honest. . . . Brimming with compassion and tenderness, The Narrow Door explores loss, love, and all the often painful facets of modern relationships.”BuzzFeed, “27 Most Exciting New Books of 2016”

 “Lisicky manages to sidestep the greatest pitfall of a nontraditional narrative. . . . The beauty of his prose—his acutely attuned voice and sense of rhythm—allows him to bridge scenes that are decades apart, weaving Denise Gess’s descent into illness with the turbulence in his personal life, thereby titrating the tension, as well as the grief.”Los Angeles Review of Books

“When I finished The Narrow Door, I felt not only like a fortunate witness to a beautiful elegy, but personally engaged in ways I’m sure the author never intended. There’s a certain type of alchemy at work when the right book comes along at the right time, when our minds as readers turn especially porous to certain ideas and experiences such that the book resonates far beyond the page.”The Globe and Mail (Canada)

“A beautiful, funny, devastating book about love, friendship, and loss that manages to be simultaneously timeless and keenly attuned to our precarious moment. Few things I’ve read so perfectly capture both the communion and the competitiveness of writers’ friendships. The Narrow Door is a miracle of personal narrative, observation, and feeling.”—Peter Trachtenberg, author of Another Insane Devotion

“Paul Lisicky’s The Narrow Door circumnavigates the often inscrutable forces that bring us in and out of each other’s lives and hearts, while paying welcome homage to the oft-unsung role of friendship in them. While Lisicky bears witness to 'the hell of wanting [that] has no cure,' his ship always feels buoyant, by virtue of a narrator whose attentiveness to feelings both big and small is marked throughout by honesty and devotion.”—Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts

“Relentlessly self-revealing, achingly tender in the way he holds his loved ones and the world, Paul Lisicky has written a memoir as raw as Jeff Tweedy fresh from rehab, and just like a Wilco album, packed with tracks, so elegant in their bewilderment and sorrow, you’ll want to visit them again and again. This book charmed me, moved me, upended me, indicted me, compelled me, wrecked me, made me want to say the big YES, made me want to be better than I am.”—Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted

“I loved this book so much that I found myself slowing to a crawl as I reached the end, not wanting to part ways quite yet. This is a portrait of friendship unlike any I’ve read. In embracing the fluidity of relationships--platonic and romantic, real life  and idolatrous, even human and canine--it reminds us that true connection can be as fleeting and precious as true solitude. There is a unique honesty in that revelation--and also a great if surprising comfort.” —Meghan Daum, author of The Unspeakable

“Intelligent and intimate, fierce and tender, real and raw, Paul Lisicky’s The Narrow Door is an unforgettable memoir about love and loss, friendship and forgiveness. It had me in its thrall from page one.”—Cheryl Strayed

The Narrow Door is a book about a long friendship, which means it’s a book about everything in life: love, hope, longing, death, fallings-out, reconciliation, art, dumb jokes, deep loss.  In The Narrow Door, Paul Lisicky proves, again, that he’s one of our finest writers on the intricacies of the human heart. Like all of Lisicky’s work, it’s beautiful and brilliant.”—Elizabeth McCracken, author of Thunderstruck