Thinking of Nancy Mairs

I'm so damned sorry to hear Nancy Mairs has died. Given the selfie fetish of our age I should say obligatory things about having known her or describe what she did for me (for this is the expectation in the blogosphere) but I met her only once at a noisy conference dinner and we didn't strike up a correspondence afterwards. The world sends us in different directions even when we have much in common.


Mairs was an uncompromising literary writer–a poet who wrote nonfiction out of necessity. Disability demanded it. Nietzsche was wrong. The abyss does not stare back and so what we choose to say about it frames its features. Nancy Mairs could be funny but not about this. “My God is not a handicapper general,” she famously wrote with a deft tip of her cap to Kurt Vonnegut Jr.. Laugh or cry about disabilities they are simpler than we suppose. Insert irony: relieved of mystic immanence and lived as daily life being crippled is ordinary, aggravating, clumsy, embarrassing, noisome, and beautiful. Nancy Mairs could turn being helpless on the floor into prose poetry.


She once wrote:


“Out of the new arrivals in our lives–the odd word stumbled upon in a difficult text, the handsome black stranger who bursts in one night through the cat door, the telephone call out of a friend's silence of years, the sudden greeting from the girl-child—we constantly make of ourselves our selves.”


Simple. Check the etymology of arrival. It means coming to land after a long voyage at sea.


Surprise is the only destination.


Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

One thought on “Thinking of Nancy Mairs”

  1. Wonderful. You may not remember me but since we meet at the University of Iowa I have lost bot legs and the outer two thirds of my fingers. I love the line: “being crippled is ordinary, aggravating, clumsy, embarrassing, noisome, and beautiful.” I have had 3.5 fabulous years of surprises and support since 2013’s catastrophe – they have been full of surprises and affirmations of old relationships.

    Take care friend,

    Jeffery L. Ford
    (better known as the husband of Lynette Marshall :))


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