What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons with Ponzichter Zweigelt Blend
For those of you who’ve been following along with these pairings for the past year, you may have noticed certain threads pulling throughout the selections: some loud, some quiet, or in the case of this month’s novel What We Lose, direct. I don’t often realize what I am looking for when reading until much later, or perhaps never as directly as I think I should, but Clemmons’ novel could be a thesis of sorts on the ways in which grief transforms—identity, time, and narrative itself, and the ways we grow to fill it. With novels we often want a clarity that life rarely presents: the narrative terms we’re taught to label on a curve in school; things like Conflict and Resolution often still inform the way I read. Clemmons’ novel asks us to not only look directly at her subject, perhaps sometimes too directly, but she asks her readers to set aside any notions of resolution. Grief never ends. Anyone who has lost someone close to them knows this; and yet, perhaps, we search for it in novels because we want some other version: a fiction of our own grief. Clemmons is not interested in this sort of fiction, despite the fact that what she writes is fiction, and despite the fact that as a reader I too found something I could pull from her perfume vials of memory that comforted my own, but rather it’s a novel that asks: “How dangerous is it?”—this grief—and jumps right in. The question “so enormous that I could see only my entire life, everything I know, filling it.” And perhaps that is the genius of Clemmons’ fiction: she creates a narrative vessel, one that, though certainly not linear, contains depths and hollows into which we pour our own losses. And though we will not get clear resolution, What We Lose reminds us of another important narrative truth: what is absent is often louder than what is present. When I drank the Ponzichter zweigelt and pinot noir blend, the first words that came to mind were: direct and saturated. The directness comes from the tart and bright acidity; it’s a wine I suggest drinking slightly more chilled than you’d think. It buzzes in your mouth and pulls you right into the “direct experience” of drinking it. And by saturated I mean: it’s a wine that leaves something lingering in each sip; the ghost of something trailing the inside of your mouth. Unfiltered and a bit cloudy, its fruit comes at you in circles, each sip layered over the one before. Drinking is its own narrative form: unresolved, perhaps, but lived through. It’s a red that’s new to me but tastes like the ghost of something I’ve already loved.
Zinzi Clemmons was born in Philadelphia to a South African mother and American father. What We Lose is her first novel, published in 2017. She is an editor and founder of the literary journal Apogee. I first came across her work in an article she wrote for Literary Hub on the Black Avant-Garde that included many fantastic novels, including Clemmons own. Upon reading What We Lose I immediately felt what Virginia Woolf said about reading multiple books at once, or rather multiple books toward the same feeling, “one book is only a single unaccompanied note, and to get the full sound, one needs ten others at the same time.” Clemmons’ novel is an important note in the song I’m reading toward.
Weingut Weinger is a small family run estate in Burgenland, Austria. At the helm is Franz Weinger, who beyond being intensely dedicated to the production of biodynamically farmed, expressive wines from low yield grape varietals, is himself someone of a writer. One scroll through his website finds gems like: “Soil is the origin of life. Unbound yet deeply rooted,” and my favorite section of the website dedicated solely to Thoughts. Though a little essay on the “Sound of Terroir: Music as an Emotional Tasting Note,” takes a solid second place. The wine we’re drinking this month is a red blend of primarily Pinot Noir and Zweigelt (also contains a bit of Cab Franc and Blaufrankisch) is part whole cluster fermentation and sees 16 months in 40 year old barrels before unfiltered bottling.