It was so fascinating that I stayed up until I finished it. Frankly, I didn’t care for it at first, but then I couldn’t put it down. The story about two young lovers in Louisiana during the Civil War unfolded in a very stark yet intriguing way.
Entitled Penthe & Alphonse, the thin book was a gift from my friend Frank. He sent it from the hospice room of the author, Mark Morneweg. A dozen years ago, Frank had logged many hours at my mother’s bedside, generously helping to pave the way for her passing. He was now doing the same for his friend.
“Perhaps you could write Mark about his book, just a few words from a fellow author. It would mean so much to him,” Frank wrote, including Mark’s email address.
I readily agreed to do so – once I had read it. After all, I wanted to be authentic in my review and not just appease him. As a writer, I’m sensitive to the difference between concrete feedback and superficial acknowledgement.
After carrying the book around with me for ten days, I resolved yesterday morning, while traveling the NYS Thruway, to read it that night and respond to Mark. When I arrived home, I grabbed it out of my satchel and placed it in queue for my evening’s activity.
While I was working on my own writing project that afternoon, Frank notified me that Mark had died the night before. Regret flooded my consciousness – regret that I had squandered the privilege of offering a fellow writer some appreciation and encouragement, two things every writer craves – especially one hoping for a literary legacy.
Last night, I read his book in its entirety. The beauty of Mark’s 99-page novel lies not in what he wrote but in what he left out. Much like poetry, his prose painted an image, gave an impression, while trusting the reader to figure it out. That’s a challenging literary device, one that I struggle to master, so eager am I to draw conclusions for readers.
I missed the opportunity on this physical plane to commend Mark for his literary contribution. But I can commend his work to others. And share my oft-repeated lesson that time and people are finite, and we should act accordingly.
Thanks for finding me on the Thruway yesterday, Mark. I hope this tribute finds its way to you.
Patricia A. Nugent
July 11, 2016