The call came at eleven at night. I was breathless, having raced inside to pick up. I’d been on my way out to dinner, and only a shot of curiosity at who might have been calling at such an hour, on a Friday, had urged me to run back and catch it.
“Is this Matthew Specktor?”
The voice on the other end was remote. It sounded, for a moment, as if she might have been calling from somewhere far away—an analog, transatlantic connection—but that wasn’t it. The accent wasn’t American, wasn’t Australian, wasn’t English, certainly, although it muddled a few of these things.
“This is Shirley Hazzard …”
Once I got to know her—it would take a few years—I’d understand that this “remoteness” was not geographical but temporal. Everything that seemed to constitute Shirley, everything that mattered, was also a piece of the historical past. But just then what I felt was surprise—something akin to what an astronomer might’ve experienced (to borrow a figure from one of her own books) upon receiving a signal from another star. Proof of life. Read More