The consideration that a dybbuk might actually be a valid and reasonable understanding of the cause of Harris’s death — there were all these derangements of what I understood as my consistent identity and character that all started happening after Harris died. I needed to write about that and stay accurate to — or rather, just try to provide an accurate record of — this truly deranging experience I was having.


ES: Both of your memoirs deal explicitly with the ways that your subjects evade full understanding. In the beginning of The Two Kinds of Decay, you state that you are not trying to understand what happened, but just remember, and in The Guardians, it seems like you are pushing back against the more traditional redemptive grief narrative. If your aim is not to come to understanding, necessarily, or some form of redemption, what is it that keeps you moving?


SM: Can you say a bit more about what you mean by redemption?


ES: Well, there’s this quote from the end of The Guardians: “It’s temping to try to claim I’ve learned something very important from the experience of Harris’s death, that its instruction will serve me as I continue living, that everything happens for a reason decided upon by an omniscient, omnipotent, beneficent reasoning force, which Jews are not asked to believe in, which I don’t believe in, and which cannot possibly exist in the physical world.” It seems like you are rejecting the perhaps comforting ideal that grief can make us stronger — that our suffering is redemptive.