Once upon a time (a time, btw, before I worked at an investment bank), I fell in love with Ian Frazier. Not physically in the sort of way that I would fall in love with a man who I was hoping to be my husband, but in a career/aspiration sort of way. Ian Frazier is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of some very great books (at least in my opinion).
I still love Ian Frazier but he seems to have written less frequently for the magazine in the past fifteen years. A period of time which coincides with the period of time in my job that has seen a great increase in responsibilities. Thus, I still love Ian Frazier, but have seen much less of him over the years. In many ways, he is very much like my best friend from business school: someone with whom I spent copious amounts of time with 20 years ago and will love always, but over the past twenty years have come to accept that we will only connect live possibly once or twice every two or three years. This is neither good or bad. It is, simply put, life. You make friends (in fact you make very good friends!) but then life moves on, and the relationships morph and change. Not for worse, not for better. They just change.
So it was with great anticipation that I saw Ian Frazier on deck in this wk’s New Yorker, writing about the “elusive, flickering, familiar, sea-polished shade of copper-green” of the Statue of Liberty (click here for the article). And reading it was similar to the time that I reconnected with my best friend from business school earlier this year. It seemed like ages and ages had passed, but then we were there and everything was the same, except that instead of catching up on a day’s worth of news we had to catch up on three year’s worth of news. And in the catching up, you see the same things that remembered from twenty years ago but aged by twenty years.
So it was with Ian Frazier. Here he was writing about the green sheen of the Statue of Liberty. The essay topic was completely Ian Frazier. The language was Ian Frazier. But somehow, I understood in reading it, that it was also an Ian Frazier who had aged the same amount of years that I have since I first met him back in 1997.
This wkend, thinking about all that, made me want to go back and read that first essay I had read of his some sixteen years ago. And I did. In so many ways, I was a latecomer to Frazier (I would argue in fact that I was a late comer to writers and writing, but that is another essay…) and found him through the Best American Essay Series in 1997. As the editor that year, he selected the essays and wrote the Introduction.
It is that introductory essay that remains one of my favorite essays. It combines humor, instruction, compassion, and purpose all in one. And in such great writing! But like all great essay writing, it gives you a window of understanding into the writer. When I read it sixteen years ago, it became my call to writing. For a long time, I have maintained a notebook of favorite writings. That essay is at the front of that notebook.
I went on to build a career at an investment bank in equity research management, not a career as a writer (either for the New Yorker or any other magazine for that matter). And I have done well in this career. Not spectacularly well by Wall Street standards, but pretty well by the average American standard. I do not regret that decision, though I often question whether it was the right decision. The central paradox that always comes to mind when I think about this is that I feel that I have become a better writer by having hadmy career at the bank. Yet that career has also limited my possibilities as a writer, if only because of the time and emotional demands of being a manager.
What a pleasure it was this wkend to travel back in time and re-read that essay. In fact, it wasn’t only a pleasure, it was a reminder! A reminder that once upon a time I wanted to be a writer. A writer like Ian Frazier. A writer who could be eloquent and compassionate and at the same time humorous.
Timing is everything right? I am only reflecting on Ian Frazier because he happened to have an essay in the New Yorker this wk. At the same time, I am getting ready to announce (finally after over 10 years!) the publication of my first book. Stay tuned here for more details shortly!
So I am in so many ways both honored and grateful to be reflecting on Ian Frazier and my call to writing this wkend. I am so happy to be able to re-read his essay. And I am definitely looking forward to whatever he writes next in the New Yorker…or wherever. Thank you Ian Frazier!