I find it amazing to suddenly think that I live in a puritanical society. "Here But Not Here" by Lillian Ross is a very special love story. It is not about candlelight and music and American romance of the kind we learned about in the '30s and '40s. It is not about the pedestrian cliches of the old formula: "We met, we fell in love, we married, we had children and lived miserably ever after." It is not the story of a love that doesn't last in a world which no longer believes in enduring love. No, it is something else, something altogether remarkable.
What bothers Jeremy Bernstein (Book Review, May 17) most is that Lillian Ross is writing about a deep and penetrating and lasting love that became her life. Hers is the passionate story of two extremely shy and brilliant lovers who slowly evolve into each other and become that one person that all two people want to become. It is a private story, now made courageously public, which gives the reader the hope and happiness of existing love. Not all people are capable of such love. That is the book's undeniable beauty. It is the sort of love that insists on itself and must live--despite all the values that seek to deny it. A great love affair is high art.
Lillian Ross, as most people know, is a marvelous writer, and the late William Shawn was the best American editor ever. It is an act of bravery for very good writers to share their private emotional life with the world--a world that is very often cold and mean-spirited. To have found such a love and lived it is an art all its own. Her sharing that discovery and that life is an act of generosity, not self-aggrandizement. Her story of a love lived against all the odds fills one with happiness that it happened and sadness that, like life itself, it had to end. But her story of the love she shared with William Shawn is life-enhancing, and I, for one, am grateful. It makes life worth living.
Carol Matthau, Pacific Palisades