I keep thinking that somewhere Theresa has thought up a perfect witty response to all of this but, alas, it is finally too late. Her Internet diary, The Wit of the Staircase, was named for “esprit d’escalier,” for “the witty response you think up after the conversation or argument is ended…The answer you cannot make, the pattern you cannot complete till afterwards it suddenly comes to you when it’s too late.” The spirit of the Spirit was that it’s never too late. But now it is. It’s over when it’s over.
All writers know that feeling of esprit d’escalier. It’s why we write it down. We are all compulsive talkers, and the best are too slow only by their own perfectionist standards. We write it down to finish the exchange, to make it complete, to connect every last dot, because conversations echo and each answer has its own process of being realized and we compulsively chase that process down. Theresa was not the sort of person one thought of as thinking up the witty answer after the party was over. She wasn’t just sitting there listening; she was extraordinarily present in the moment; her wit was immediate and incandescent. She was the life of many parties, but the electricity that flashed over drinks and dinners was usually the beginning of a much longer haul.
Theresa was best known as a screenwriter, but as the editor of a literary magazine, I encouraged her to write prose. From dipping into this delightfully eclectic well of thought, reviews, and tips I recognized an extraordinary mind, a tremendous talent and a prodigious analyst of culture.
Hearing of her death I was stunned and disbelieving. I waited for some bizarre punchline to kick in. I was sickened. Then, perhaps oddly, I was angry. I had felt this same way when Jean-Michel Basquiat died. How could you take your mind away from us, how could you take your voice out of the game? It didn’t make sense and it still doesn’t make sense to me now, but I couldn’t be angry anymore. I told Jeremy “You’ve got to be strong, you’re working for two now.” Apparently that argument wasn’t good enough. They were a team. They had become twins of a sort.
And so that black lightning struck again. I felt that sickening feeling again, but this time I wasn’t surprised. I have no answers to too many questions. I don’t know if the staircase will help. Why do two important creators cause themselves and their futures to disappear? I can’t complete this pattern. Maybe there is no answer. Or if there is, maybe I don’t want to know. Right now it’s hard enough to remain convinced that this is real. Why can’t I just call their mobile phones and get an answer? I’m going all Edison on this.
All I do know, the hard way, is that the artists and writers who come up with extraordinary answers are often deeply and terribly haunted by the questions that prompt them, and you can never second guess what it is to be haunted by ideas, by angels or demons or history or visions, by reality or imagination. Maybe I’ll think up a better response later. We live by our wits. Right now the only thing I can think of is to thank Theresa and Jeremy for their work, their friendship and goodwill and to hope that somehow, somewhere the answers come to them and the pattern is complete and that for such beautiful dreamers it isn’t too late. Their dreams are still in this world.
(Note: After Theresa's death, Jeremy asked Glenn to write this eulogy as the final post on her blog.)