Enough is the title of one of the short stories in the latest issue of the Paris Review. The story is by Philip Gourevitch. At first, I am puzzled by its appearance. Gourevitch is the editor of the periodical after all. Is it above board for him to publish one of his own stories?
At first the tale seems fairly inconsequential and to be perfectly honest like something I might have written or have tried to write. So I am even more puzzled. But I continue reading and the story gets better, so I forget about the fact that Gourevitch is the editor.
Besides the story reminds me a little bit about myself, at least how I feel on some days. Perhaps everyone has such days. Jerry is a photographer. He photographs wars. He says in the beginning he went to photograph the wars out of curiosity. He was awarded prizes for this for but they never made any difference. The wars were never ending; there was always a new one for him to photograph.
But his work brought him no pleasure. “He saw that his work was futile, and his work was his life. Why write about things that nobody should ever have to know? He despised war and he could not live without it, and for this reason, when he lost perspective—or was it when he gained it?—he despised himself.”
And when he felt this way Jerry withdrew into himself. “He did not want to talk to anyone. He spoke only when he felt he had to, and the speech came in bitter outbursts that surprised him and gave him no relief.”
Whenever he felt this way he found himself starting to write and like so many others overcome with despair he found that writing helped him, although for both Jerry and others, the relief never lasts for long. “It came in small fragments at first, half-formed thoughts that gradually fit together into a coherent mood--that is, a mood he could inhabit.”
One day he wrote: "Narcissists should be shot and it occurred to him that if he were to shoot himself that would make a very funny suicide note. It felt good to laugh. He asked his wife “Should I be shot?” She said, “Whatever makes you happy.”
During one of the wars he covered a photographer friend gave him a key to a house on an island in the Hebrides saying, “Giving you those keys made me feel free to die.” It made little sense to Jerry and then again, maybe it did.
In the next war, the photographer was killed. Jerry goes to the island where there are virtually no inhabitants without a soul anywhere near his house. I have also come to an island, a warmer one to be sure and there are all too many souls living here.
He wrote to his wife every day. He wrote about the things he saw and his experiences living by “the sky, sea grass, peat.” One day he wrote in the notebook that he was keeping, “The entire vast view is socked in fog, a fine drizzling mist, the sky a solid blanket the bright blue-gray of skim milk.” That was it.” But he never sent her anything he had written.
After being on the island a month, he left to return to the latest war. His wife found the notebook with his writings the next year when she came to see the house he had left here. Grourevitch writes, “The last thing he’d written was, “Enough.”
And so in the end I thought it was a good story and I’m glad I forgot about the author-editor issue. I recognized a little bit of myself in Jerry and wonder how many other readers did as well or whether that even matters. And then I recalled something Patrick Kurp wrote a while ago: “Even as adults we’re looking for correlatives to our lives in everything we read. How else could it be?”