Connors (Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout, 2012) reflects candidly on the years he spent unmoored after a family tragedy; he continuously found himself in places he felt apart from.
“A natty socialist at the Wall Street Journal. A white guy in a black neighborhood. Strange how comfortable my discomfort became,” writes the author, who, at the age of 23, after the shocking death of his brother, turned completely inward, “a man shrouded in almost total self-regard." As Connors struggled to find a place for his pain where it wouldn’t devour him, he stumbled into a career in journalism, even after he convinced himself he had given up on the business. “But the fact was I’d borrowed twenty-five grand to pay for an education in print journalism,” he writes, “so I had little choice but to pursue a career in print journalism.” At his desk in the Leisure & Arts section of the WSJ, surrounded by conservative editorial writers, Connors proudly displayed his left-wing politics by hanging posters of Emma Goldman and Ralph Nader. He had passionate, failed affairs and emotionally charged encounters with his neighbors as one of the only white faces in his Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. Connors' missing sense of purpose is keenly felt through passages that combine lyricism with dark humor to draw lines between grief and the uncanny. His search toward understanding his brother's death—which included studying graphic images from the autopsy report and reaching out to his brother’s ex-girlfriends—ultimately ends in a place of belonging. But the redemptive ending of this story, which Connors smartly does not dwell on, is far less compelling than the unique and brutally raw accounts of his search for connection.
Unlike other, neater narratives of being lost and found, Connors’ story—told with harrowing insight and fierce prose—is messy and incomplete and makes no apologies for being anything but.