Dorian Stuber at The Quarterly Conversation:
To read Lewinter is to mimic his own sudden discovery, after months of debilitating back pain, that he is able, without ever before having practiced yoga or indeed physical exercise of any kind, to execute the lotus position: “its effect brought about, in one breath, relief: the body instantly reorganized on its axis, like a planetary system harmoniously entering into gravitation.” We labor through clauses that seem to have no relation to each other until we grasp a word or phrase that snaps everything into place—what was meaningless becomes meaningful.
Characteristically, Lewinter doesn’t set out to solve his back pain with yoga—it just happens: “suddenly the technique appeared simple to me, and, impulsively, I got up to execute at once the movement I had visualized.” What is true for the narrator is true for readers as well. We need to allow ourselves to be visited by sudden illumination. It’s like when you have a name at the tip of your tongue. Focusing on it gets you nowhere. But when you let your attention wander, it bursts unbidden into your memory.
Reading Lewinter is hard work, no question, but we have to learn to accept that we won’t always understand. If we can reach a state of free-floating attention, we are more likely to be able to experience sudden moments of illumination.
Echoing the subtitle of The Attraction of Things, “Fragments of an Oblique Life,” we might thus best describe Lewinter an oblique writer, less in the sense of indirection than of the slantwise.