A few weeks ago, Amir's close friend Patrick Crawford sent me copies of a handful of letters Amir wrote to him in the late '90s, when they were in their early 20s. The letters are hilarious and dripping with Amir's typical flavor of sarcasm, angst, wild descriptions and intense cerebral navel-gazing. With Patrick's permission, I'd like to share some excerpts that offer a particularly deep dive into Amir's mind.
First, an intro from Patrick:
Your brother and I were frustrated writers...we emulated the Beat correspondence of the 1950's as pen pals in the late 1990's.Amir's letter to Patrick, October 1998:
I sent him 4 letters and he responded with 4 letters.
I have those four letters and they are awesome.
I have cherished these letters for years because they are so honest and real and just really funny and a snap shot of the times.
They are also dark and dry and talk of depression, drugs, and loneliness.
These are personal letters only meant for me to read. However, I really feel you need to read them because they will give you another glimpse at his fantastic brain and sense of humor.
Now and then, I'll strum the guitar, jot down some lines, or have a sick silly time getting drunk with Berman and Levy and these activities are my respite from dull reality. My love life is in a state of quiet desperation as all of the wistful eyes those college girls turn to me soon look away, and my reaction is usually to laugh and say something cynical and mocking to myself to try to dull the wound. But the fact is, loneliness only comes in short spurts for me--most of the time I'm content to be absorbed in music and books and gratified by wordy exchanges with fellow slackers.
Yes, it's good to be on the outside of normalcy. Respectable life is far too sterile. I bring this up to you because you and I are educational misfits... we are self-taught stylists and the more we cultivate our own art, the more artistic it becomes as all great art (grand statement) is the result of individuality.
I've just completed a long day of work and am relishing the silence of solitude... One thing I can say about the last few months is that I've become real chummy with our dreaded friend loneliness. Solitary living has become an uncomfortable reality. When I'm not at work, I spend all my time reading and writing. I've actually become quite diligent in my writing practice. It's really the only thing that keeps me sane. But I do love good novels, and lately I've been devouring one book after another, sometimes reading all night long.
Some recent favorites include: Rand - The Fountainhead; Hemingway - A Farewell to Arms; Steinbeck - Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden; Kerouac - Vanity of Duluoz; Kesey - Sometimes a Great Notion; Wolfe - Short Stories. I am truly addicted to the written word, almost to a fault. It's gotten so that I almost substitute the fantasy world of novels for real-life experience."Addicted to the written word"... there's an addiction I have shared with Amir since we were kids. It's an addiction we talked about for hours at a time, one we shared with Yael and one I'm proud to have retained over the years. My life would be sorely lacking without it.
But it's Amir's line about being "on the outside of normalcy" that I carefully ingested and, holy mother of shit, do I relate to it. In myriad, infinite ways. Since I was very young, I could recognize the feeling that I existed somewhere on the edge of what others perceived as normal or typical. I never felt completely at ease with other kids, apart from Amir. Even at a young age, I could sense that he shared my feelings of not quite belonging; of being fascinated by geeky things like maps and encyclopedias and astronomy; of being an inveterate introvert in a world of extroverts.
I agree that, the majority of the time, it IS good to be on the outside of normalcy. I welcome it. However, Amir and I talked occasionally about how much easier and less anxiety-filled our lives would be if we could experience life inside that boundary of normalcy, if only temporarily. But we agreed we wouldn't be happy existing in that sphere for long. I have always believed that, in spite of its pitfalls, the outside of normalcy is a far more interesting place to dwell. I like it here.
The superb Joan Didion once said: "I am a woman who for some time now has felt radically separated from most of the ideas that seem to interest other people." I relate to this in every way possible, knowing too well that strange longing to connect with what I imagined (and have learned) were a precious few others in the world who felt similarly. Amir was one of them. And how fucking lucky does that make me to have had him as a brother?
More letters to Patrick at a later date. For now, here's to a happy 2018. xo