This weekend I attended my editor’s funeral. He was 27 years old.
I had planned to relaunch my occasional (but lately non-existent) email newsletter with a discussion of recent doings in my private and professional life, entitled “Two of the Hardest Things I Have Ever Done.”
Instead, with deep sadness, I herewith share a brief reflection on a life cut short, as I posted it on Facebook last week, the day I found out about P.J. Horoszko’s passing:
My editor at Picador, PJ Horoszko, and I had a plan to gradually roll out news of my new book, written under a pen name, and my role as the author. Yesterday, I learned that P.J., who was only 27, died suddenly.
Whither plans? And how trivial our plans for this book appear next to the tragedy of a brilliant life cut short.
I didn’t know P.J. that well. We met a couple of times in person. Spoke on the telephone. Exchanged business-like emails. Yesterday morning, I sent him an email asking his opinion of the Publishers Weekly review. By the time I hit “send,” if I understand correctly, he had already passed away.
There are no words when a life filled with promise just—ends. My heart aches for P.J. and his family, and for the colleagues with whom he worked every day.
Friends of his are posting pictures of him, but I have none. I have only this image: the book cover he shepherded through Picador, solicitous and respectful of my feedback, as he ever was.
More important, I have the book he edited, which I now intend to dedicate to his memory. He blew me away with the quality of his edit—a guy half my age, meticulous, insightful. He performed the job that an editor is supposed to perform, but a job which too often goes wanting today, and he did so with tenacity and good humor and compassion. He left his mark. His loss is a loss for all who write, for future literary culture.
I don’t want this to seem like self-promotion—although P.J. would have laughed ironically at the thought—which is why I am not linking this book to a store. Please don’t buy it. Not now. But do use this image to remember that P.J. pursued his responsibilities at Picador with the utmost professionalism and seriousness. The book cover is only a symbol of that—of the imprint he made on one life. Mine.
Because I have a car, I gave a lift to the funeral (which took place in Newtown, CT) to two car-less Manhattanites: another of P.J.’s authors and one of his former colleagues and closest friends.
Over the course of the ride, a deeper understanding of P.J. opened up to me as we developed a portrait from three different perspectives. I knew he was brilliant. I didn’t know he was a poet. That he struggled with his weight. That he suffered in that way people who feel deeply often suffer.
I’ll have a new author bio coming out soon, one that was written before P.J. died. It speaks of mortality as a theme throughout my work—an element made that much more poignant for me now as I launch a book in the shadow of another man’s death.
But launch it I must, because—as the cliché goes—life is for the living. The imperative to move on is as important as the imperative to breathe. And, after all, art is both an acknowledgment of our mortality and a cry against it. P.J. knew that.
My next newsletter will go back to the theme I had planned to develop, and future emails (not too many) will address my exploration, through practice, of storytelling. I hope you’ll stick with me and will pass this along to sympathetic friends.
Thank you for being a reader.