John W. Evans Recommends...

“I keep this quote by Vaclav Havel taped next to my desk: ‘Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.’ I’ve had it explained to me in a dozen or so ways, most of them contradictory. Havel came from the theater, so his activism would embrace a certain improvisation. The path from anti-Communist playwright to post-Communist statesman must have seemed, to paraphrase Robert Hass, at best untranslated. Havel was an actor and a politician: quotable. Still, I am moved by his words. They inspire me to have a little more confidence as I write, not that the work is masterful or essential at any stage, but that the process is necessary, and will culminate in sense. I start every new project with a question, and following Havel’s premise, I try to only write toward questions that I cannot already answer. My best questions are born of universal premises: What do I not understand? What do I hope to make sense of? What can I change? My second memoir, Should I Still Wish, is itself a question I never really wanted to answer: Shouldn’t I still wish that you hadn’t died? I am so embarrassed by that question. It terrifies and shames me, for good reason. Who thinks of such questions? Who tries to answer them? And yet, a real answer—a reckoning, an honest engagement—is essential to any feeling of hope that continues in my life.”
—John W. Evans, author of Should I Still Wish (University of Nebraska Press, 2017)

Photo credit: Andrew Stanbridge