The Pharmacist's Mate by Amy Fusselman
Before my dad died I saw the world as a place. By ‘place’ I mean space. Fixed. Space did not move, but people moved in space. People and space could touch each other, but not very deeply.
After he died, I saw that people and space are permeable to each other in a way that people and people are not. I saw that space is like water. People can go inside it.
I’ve spent the last two days seriously considering sending you the excerpt above as the entirety of my review for The Pharmacist’s Mate for how perfectly it describes the space Fusselman creates between salvos of thought primarily around her efforts towards pregnancy (“The big problem I have had in trying to get pregnant is that I don’t ovulate. Thus, I don’t get my period. I mean, I can go six months.”), the death or her father (“I was a child once, with a dad. My dad is dead now. He died two weeks ago.”), and excerpts from his journal as the titular Pharmacist’s Mate in World War II (stationed on the Liberty Ship George E. Pickett). And yet, as with all the best lyric essays, so many other fragments and ideas are naturally introduced in a way that feels more honest about how we think and the nature of existence on a whole.
Have you read The Pharmacist’s Mate? I think you’d enjoy it. It originally came out in 2001 and that distance is the only reason I can think for it not always being mentioned alongside the bumper-crop of titles that create similarly permeable space like water around motherhood and pregnancy and so much else almost fifteen years later (On Immunity by Eula Biss, Ongoingness by Sarah Manguso, Little Labors by Rivka Galchen, The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, The Braid by Lauren Levin). I know comparing things to Maggie Nelson can be a bit of a bookselling cheat code at times, but is true here all the same.
Anyway, hope this finds you well. Sorry again about being two days late with this. Let me know what you think/what should change and we’ll go from there.