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  • Writer's pictureSusan Edsall

Subtle Bodies by Norman Rush

Subtle Bodies by Norman Rush
Subtle Bodies by Norman Rush

Subtle Bodies

Norman Rush

I love this book. It's about friendship, love, idealism, disappointment, and longing. It's gorgeously written and weirdly funny. I laughed out loud a number of times. But it's fundamentally a book that burrows down right into the hot center of your fears and your desires and your tender heart. I felt sad in the best possible way when I read the last line.

This sums up the book (and its title):

“Ned was having a particularly strong reaction to the idea of Joris leaving. Partly it was selfish because he hadn't finished the task of putting together what they had all been, with what they were now. And the question was still there of whether their true interior selves—the subtle bodies inside—were still there and functioning despite what age and accident and force of circumstance may have done to hurt them. He meant something like that...that when they had become friends it had been a friendship established between subtle bodies, by which he meant the ingredients of what they were to be...”

Here's an example of a joke between Ned and his wife Nina—the two narrators of the novel—and Ned's undying gratitude for her:

“...Ned had come to the door just then and she was topless, it had been a mistake because she'd been expecting the UPS guy, with whom the deal was that he would come to the Dutch door and she would let him have blubalub and he would give her the parcel meant for them and then she would get to go out to the truck and take her pick of any other parcel she wanted. Ned wanted it all to go on forever. On his very tall tombstone he wanted inscribed at the top Fun Had, and all the rest would be a list of things dating from Nina coming into his life.”

This made me laugh out loud:

“It was her opinion that life should feel like something other than falling down an endless flight of stairs.”

Here's an example of the exhuberance of Ned and Nora's relationship:

“She thought, Get him a beautiful notebook like Joris's as a surprise.
'I'm going to get you a notebook like Joris's for your birthday,' she said.”

Order this at your local bookstore. If, inexplicably, you have no local bookstore, you can order it online at Indiebound, Barnes and Noble or at Amazon


About Susan Edsall

Writing is how I make my way through the thicket of what we’ve made of this planet we’re on. It takes me a long time and lots of words. Social media mystifies me. How do so many people have so much to say, so quickly, and with such resolute certainty? Read more about Susan >



“Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon.”

E.M. Forster

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