Renee Gladman’s To After That is an excavation of sorts, a memoir about coming to terms with a manuscript and all that went into its creation.
It begins . . .
“Let me see it,” as strange as it sounds, was my first thought when I returned home this evening. Hours before—having printed the last page of the manuscript and prepared to flee the house—I had written “After That: a novella” across the title page, then I ran outside. When I was about a block from home I turned around and came back. I pulled the manuscript out again—a crisp stack of ninety-seven very white, very smooth pages—and scribbled in black ink “When I was a poet” just under the title to qualify things. I changed my outfit, adding a new, more versatile layer (a hooded sweatshirt), and left my house decidedly. I was outside; the relief I felt was tremendous.
— Renee Gladman, To After That
Gladman has taken her readers in through the book’s front door, by which she shows her narrator leaving and entering an actual front door, the perfect preview of what follows. The book details an author’s attempts to finish writing a different book, and the process finds her oscillating between triumph and defeat as the manuscript eludes her grasp. Indeed, the final sentence of that opening paragraph — “I was outside; the relief I felt was tremendous” — lets the reader in on what the narrator hadn’t yet realized: her relief was short-lived.
To After That travels forward and backward through moments of certainty and doubt, and as it does so, it continues to resonate with notes sounded in the opening paragraph.
Thank you for reading.