The stories in No Longer and Not Yet look at the ways our lives are lived in the split seconds between what is no longer but is still not yet. Most take place on Manhattan’s iconic Upper West Side, in the shops, hallways, and parks that reveal this well-known “big city” neighborhood for the tiny, even backwater village it more often resembles. An Upper West Sider herself, Joanna Clapps Herman draws her characters honestly yet tenderly, revealing them as much through how they move—the slope of a shoulder, a vocal inflection, the weight of a football—as by what they do, as though their bodies speak the truths they can’t express.
Here, Hannah Arendt’s ghost haunts the building where she once lived, a hawk carries the apparition of a lost loved one, a homeless woman becomes Demeter. Small moments and intimacies of life weave together to form a bigger picture: the squeak of the hotel bed, a leaf on a saucer, the quality of light in the therapist’s office, the doorman’s familiar jokes, the open cupboards, the unspoken words. These stories show that, although we may think of ourselves in larger mythic narratives, our days are set in the terrain that is the opposite of the vast.
Map illustration (above) by Lisa Wilde
"Joanna Clapps Herman is both Saint and Bard of the Upper West Side. She illuminates the human spirit pulsing through its vibrant buildings, portraying neighbors linked by history and geography, by shared love and loss. On Riverside Drive, the imposing ghost of Hannah Arendt, a former inhabitant, is as strong a presence as a small boy who covets a corner of the elevator after his sister is born. Herman discovers the human connections that warm the asphalt and brick of New York, delivering benediction along with a healthy dose of humor."
"Like the best poetry, only infinitely more fun to read, No Longer and Not Yet opens our eyes to what's in front of them — love, irritation, friendship, injustice, good wine, children becoming themselves, the handsome young man opening the door of our apartment building, snow falling on a man who lives in a box outside. This group of beautifully connected stories slips by our eyes like life or Tolstoy, and we close the book regretfully, feeling we have lived with its people, its friendships, deaths and marriages, and are sorry to leave them. The writing here is both exquisite and transparent and everything is bathed in feeling and light."
"No Longer and Not Yet is a moving and funny collection of stories. Translation always reveals the weaknesses in a text. Joanna's writing doesn't have those weaknesses. She is a very accomplished writer."
Lazare Bitoun, translator of American writers into French, including Grace Paley and Janet Malcolm