Fanmail – Eric LeMay

In Praise of Nothing


Dear Eric LeMay,

I’m surprised to find I understand, or at least think I do, your enjoyment of and fascination with nothingness. I didn’t expect to. I am one of those people who rushes around, overly caffeinated and committed, with a complicated, loving relationship to her responsibilities. I struggle with stillness.

I do yoga a few times a week, and the moments of nothing at the end of each practice—savansana, corpse pose—are a struggle. There is, however, a particular nothingness I enjoy: When doing a balance—like vriksasana, tree pose—I find a drishti. This is a steady point of focus, a crack in a wall, a bent window blind. Its purpose is to allow exploration within while being attentive to nothing; a looking without looking, much like the quiet waves of grass in your webcam views.

I wonder if you’ve already thought about this specific comparison; though I didn’t see any while reading In Praise of Nothing, I feel like you are perhaps a person who can understand—maybe even write or read— the occasional Sanskrit word. Your collection leaps and bounds across time and space and subjects, pausing at locales like the etymology of John and Jane Doe as placeholder names and the history of the Ohio Lottery to dig deep.

The essays borrow and play with both form and content. “Viral-Ize” and “Of Studies” give two narratives, one framing the other on the pages’ space. “Once More to the Lake” integrates E.B. White’s words with your own return to a lake of your youth.

There is an art, I think, in bringing subjects to the reader. The mountain comes, letter by letter, and is slowly rebuilt at a closer distance where we are better able to admire its height, its crags. It is this ability I most admire within In Praise of Nothing, how you bring to us such varied ideas and perspectives.

For example, the essay “Fallen” tasks itself with imagining what Eve said to Adam to convince him to eat the fruit in the Garden of Eden:

I saw know, and it filled with thick oil, in which the

pelican thrashed, choke-cry,

gutter-wing, its body stupid with death.

The full section of her voice is one of my favorite passages I’ve read because I am convinced she is whispering to me, asking me to eat with her. I am convinced that I, like Adam, could not have refused her.

Mr. LeMay, your collection is tied together, it seems, by a drishti-like gaze. We look at everything, we focus on everything, and in that, find peace and joy in the nothingness, the blurring white noise that everything created.

With admiration,

Alysia Sawchyn