Excerpt from What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

What Are You Going Through

by Sigrid Nunez

What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez X
What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Sep 2020, 224 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


It cannot possibly be true, can it, the story about Toscanini losing patience during a rehearsal with a soprano, grabbing her large breasts and crying, If only these were brains!

Later came "Men don't make passes at girls with fat asses."

I can see them, this man and this woman, at the department dinner that will surely follow the event, and which, because of who he is, will be a fine one, at one of the area's most expensive restaurants, and where it's likely they'll be seated next to each other. And of course the woman will be hoping for some intense conversation-no small talk-maybe even a bit of flirtation, but this will turn out to be not so easy given how his attention keeps straying to the far end of the table, to the grad student who's been assigned as his escort, responsible for shuttling him from place to place, including after tonight's dinner back to his hotel, and who, after just one glass of wine, is responding to his frequent glances with increasingly bold ones of her own.

It looks like it might be true. I googled it. According to some reports, though, he didn't actually grab the soprano's breasts but only pointed at them.

During the obligatory recitation of the speaker's accomplishments, the man lowers his gaze and assumes a grimace of discomfort in an affectation of modesty that I doubt fools anyone.

If grades had depended more on how much I absorbed from lectures than from studying texts I'd have failed out of school. I don't often lose concentration when I'm reading something or listening to a person converse, but talks of any kind have always given me trouble (the worst being authors reading from their own work). My mind starts wandering almost as soon as the speaker gets started. Also, this particular evening I was unusually distracted. I had spent all afternoon in the hospital with my friend. I was wrung out from watching her suffer, and from trying not to let my dismay at her condition get the better of me and become obvious to her. Dealing with illness: I've never been good at that, either.

So my mind wandered. It wandered right from the start. I lost the thread of the talk several times. But it hardly mattered, because the man's talk was based on a long article he had written for a magazine, and I had read the article when it came out. I had read it, and everyone I knew had read it. My friend in the hospital had read it. My guess was, most people in the audience had too. It occurred to me that at least some of them had come because they wanted to ask questions, to hear a discussion of what the man had to say, the substance of which they were already familiar with from the article. But the man had made the unusual decision not to take any questions. There was to be no discussion tonight. This, however, we wouldn't know until after he'd finished speaking.

It was all over, he said. He quoted another writer, translating from the French: Before man, the forest; after him, the desert. Whatever must be done to forestall catastrophe, whatever actions or sacrifices, it was now clear that humankind lacked the will, the collective will, to undertake them. To any intelligent alien, he said, we would appear to be in the grip of a death wish.

It was over, he said again. No more the faith and consolation that had sustained generations and generations, the knowledge that, though our own individual time on earth must end, what we loved and what had meaning for us would go on, the world of which we had been a part would endure-that time had ended, he said. Our world and our civilization would not endure, he said. We must live and die in this new knowledge.

Our world and our civilization would not endure, the man said, because they could not survive the many forces we ourselves had set against it. We, our own worst enemy, had set ourselves up like sitting ducks, not only allowing weapons capable of killing us all many times over to be created but also for them to land in the hands of egomaniacs, nihilists, men without empathy, without conscience. Between our failure to control the spread of WMDs and our failure to keep from power those for whom their use was not only thinkable but perhaps even an irresistible temptation, apocalyptic war was becoming increasingly likely... .

Excerpted from What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez. Copyright © 2020 by Sigrid Nunez. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Simone Weil (1909-1943)

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Office of Historical Corrections
    The Office of Historical Corrections
    by Danielle Evans
    In The Office of Historical Corrections, the second story collection from Danielle Evans, readers ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Dutch House
    by Ann Patchett

    The Dutch House is my introduction to Ann Patchett, which, after reading it, surprises me. I had ...

  • Book Jacket: Nights When Nothing Happened
    Nights When Nothing Happened
    by Simon Han
    A quiet atmosphere of dread permeates Simon Han's subdued debut novel Nights When Nothing Happened. ...
  • Book Jacket: Take It Back
    Take It Back
    by Kia Abdullah
    In Kia Abdullah's novel Take It Back, sexual violence advisor Zara Kaleel becomes involved in a case...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Prophets
    by Robert Jones Jr.

    A stunning debut novel about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation.

    Reader Reviews
  • Book Jacket

    The Mystery of Mrs. Christie
    by Marie Benedict

    The real-life disappearance of Agatha Christie is perhaps her greatest mystery of all.

    Reader Reviews
Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Waiting for the Night Song
by Julie Carrick Dalton
A startling and timely debut about friendships forged in childhood and ruptured by the high price of secrets.
Win This Book!
Win The House on Vesper Sands

The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O'Donnell

Introducing a detective duo for the ages who unlock the secrets of a startling Victorian mystery.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

T T T Light F

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.