Praise for The Narrow Door (Graywolf Press, 2016):
A New York Times Editors' Choice
Finalist for the Randy Shilts Award from the Publishing Triangle
Named a Best Book of the Year by Shelf Awareness, Google Play, the Miami Herald, Largehearted Boy, and The Coil
"[The Narrow Door] is very beautiful... Lisicky has a gift for understanding suffering, an added bundle of receptors for understanding loneliness.... [Gess] glows on the page, looking for all the world like a woman who's swallowed the moon."
--Jennifer Senior, The New York Times
"You know you're reading an exceptional book when, approximately two sentences into it, you start panicking at the thought of its ending. Be forewarned: This is likely to happen to you, as it did to me, reading the opening pages of The Narrow Door, the achingly gorgeous, wildly ambitious memoir by Paul Lisicky."
--Meredith Maran, The Chicago Tribune
"It's this frank sincerity and book's bold form that place The Narrow Door beside some of the more daring and exciting writers of the last few years."
--Nathan Deuel, The Los Angeles Times
"A rare look into the friendships writers form with the people they may end up competing with for the same posts, publishers and prizes--and an even rarer look into the life of a significant writer who lived with and loved another significant writer for 15 years....An elegy, an apologia and a triumph."
--Alexander Chee, The Sunday New York Times Book Review
"The most moving account of love among artists I've ever read. The Narrow Door is astonishing."
"When I finished The Narrow Door, I felt not only like a fortunate witness to a beautiful elegy, but personally engaged in ways I'm sure the author never intended. There's a certain type of alchemy at work when the right book comes along at the right time, when our minds as readers turn especially porous to certain ideas and experiences such that the book resonates far beyond the page."
--Pasha Malla, The Toronto Globe and Mail
"By turns raw, wry, and meditative, Lisicky offers a painfully honest accounting of his own failures and limitations; ultimately, this is the story of how a heart opens, and the endless, literally death-defying work of keeping it that way."
--Kate Tuttle, The Boston Globe
"Stunningly done... Lisicky's style relies less on extravagant language than on extravagant techné: a maximal use of complexity. Even putting aside all the echoes and tropes, his sentences contain unusually nuanced shades of thought and meaning."
--Katy Waldman, Slate
"By the time I finished the first chapter of Paul Lisicky's new lyrical memoir, I was certain this was an essential book.....Love explodes from these [pages]. To say it any other way would be inefficient."
--Peter Geye, The Minneapolis Star Tribune
"[The Narrow Door] floored me. A meditation on love, friendship, writing, just all kinds of powerful thoughts and ideas come shining through. It's a memoir, yes, but something bigger than that. Lisicky tells the story of another person, but his experiences surrounding that person. It's just an incredibly beautiful book."
--Jason Diamond, Vol. 1 Brooklyn
"Paul Lisicky's memoir of friendship and grief is a gem of a book--beautiful, lyrical, and full of warmth and light.... Told in interweaving timelines, intercut with Lisicky's internet wanderings through news of natural disaster and ecological crisis, this is a stunningly hopeful book, full of empathy and sensitivity, with sentences that will sing in your ears for days."
--Google Play, Top 20 Books of 2016
"An intimate and emotionally charged memoir."
--Gregg Shapiro, The Miami Herald
"[Paul Lisicky] believes in fearlessly writing in the moment. In doing so, he captures the daily friction between moments of pleasure and challenge. The immediacy of his work allows for joy as well as gravity."
--Lauren LeBlanc, Guernica
"Lisicky manages to craft a dynamic, anachronistic portrait of an artist (himself) who is transformed with each shifting thought, roles morphing and reversed depending on which conversation is at hand.... There is an awareness that understanding is an active practice, that each new epiphany demands a follow-up.... But alchemy is no substitute for understanding, and The Narrow Door is all the better for Lisicky's having avoided it."
--Shane Barnes, Flavorwire
--"[The Narrow Door] has accomplished something new.... well-written, in the artistic sense...in the way that's too rare in American nonfiction now."
--Emmett Rensin, Vox
"The friendship Lisicky conjures is a relationship in the fullest sense--intoxicating, brutal, draining and sustaining.... The Narrow Door is meticulous in its description of grief and loss, and never shies from the full complexity and range of emotion in Lisicky's relationship with Gess."
--Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, The San Francisco Chronicle
"Bravely honest...brimming with compassion and tenderness."
--BuzzFeed, The 27 Most Exciting Books of 2016
"Beautiful, wrenching... Lisicky is an established, magnificent poet, and he uses his talent for saying so much with just a few perfect words to recount scenarios of his life as he weaves back and forth between the two different losses. Have your bae on speed dial for when you finish it."
--Liberty Hardy, Book Riot
"Sure, I cried, and often. But more, The Narrow Door made me want to call a few people, and say the magic words, and feel at home in the world. It's hard to think of a book that can give you more than that."
--Jesse Kornbluth, headbutler.com
"[The Narrow Door] is smart, deeply moving, exquisitely written, and made of that open-eyed, open-hearted seeking that characterizes the very best of narrative nonfiction."
--Vincent Scarpa, Electric Literature
"I think most of us like to put off the ends of things, especially things we love.... That's how I felt reading Paul Lisicky's memoir The Narrow Door....I wanted to keep the book at the diner a few minutes more."
--Anisse Gross, The Rumpus
"Lisicky's portrayal of Denise Gess reveals her charisma, her remarkable insight, and her wit, without censoring her insecurity or her possessiveness.... [The Narrow Door] brims with insight, showcasing [Lisicky's] talent for inquiry into the everyday."
--Joselyn Takacs, Los Angeles Review of Books
"Lisicky does atmosphere and sensation so beautifully that the act of compassion in the face of loss brightens into a kind of unexpected light."
--Lia Purpura, Drunken Boat
"Nearly every page...seems wrenched from a writer who feels the anxiety of art, who struggles toward that blissful center of creation.... In The Narrow Door, love and friendship ultimately trump self-centered ambition."
--Nick Ripatrazone, Commonweal
"In The Narrow Door, Paul Lisicky splays himself open to give us the tragic loss--and wonderful life--of his friend Denise, which is told in tandem with the unraveling relationship with his husband. This is Lisicky's best, bravest, and wisest work."
--Kevin Catalano, The Coil
"An honest and fierce examination of the ways that platonic and romantic loves inform one another -- and how their losses devastate in equal measure."
--The Millions, Great 2016 Nonfiction Book Preview Pick
"A fascinating memoir of Lisicky's mind at work as he processes catastrophes--global and emotional--and tries to claim new ways to hope."
--Jen Michalski, The Washington Independent Review of Books
"[The Narrow Door] is a tender and beautiful book of compassion and resilience, written with deep insight into the human soul and the sensitivity of a poet."
--Claire Handscombe, Washington Life
"One of my favorite books of 2016 so far. A precise, poetic, honest retelling of what it's like to lose a best friend to unbeatable terminal illness and a partner to irreconcilable differences, but also, so much more."
--Leilani Clark, KQED Arts
"Lisicky puts into words something quietly revolutionary.... Throughout The Narrow Door, Lisicky's voice carries a sense of keen, compassionate observation."
--Megan Burbank, The Portland Mercury
"The structure of [The Narrow Door] as a rearranged and re-emphasized chronology feels musical and even at times magically attuned to the rhythms of life.... Through warmth, humor, and even through the striving of Mr. Lisicky's narrative voice, the reader becomes allied with him."
--Evan Harris, The East Hampton Star
"A deeply moving and bravely honest memoir about friendship among writers." --West Coast Live
"A truly gifted writer can do his own thing and strike a common nerve within us all. In this sense The Narrow Door is exquisitely wide open."
--Elizabeth Licorish, PhillyVoice
"There's sunlight, taking an unknowable form, after all this. To reach it, how he must pass through the narrow door, is to deal with his losses while remaining whole. This book is a clear and unwavering 'Hello' from the other side."
--Alex J. Tunney, Lambda Literary
"There is nothing that Paul Lisicky writes that I don't want to read, and re-read, and give to friends, and put in Little Free Libraries for everyone else to read. [The Narrow Door], a memoir of a friendship and love and loss and beauty and the richness of life, is no exception."
--Anna March, The Rumpus
"The Narrow Door is among the highest forms of self-expression possible: through this book Paul Lisicky is able to give us his account of being human. It is a gift he gives to the memory of Denise, and of course, it is a gift he gives to the reader."
--Kelly Dwyer, kellydwyerauthor.com
"A devastating, and devastatingly beautiful, look at the two treasured friendships of [Lisicky's] life."
--Beth Kephart, bethkephart.com
"Deeply personal and sometimes painful... A thoughtful examination of love, loss, and friendship that refuses to simplify difficult subjects."
--Ray Simon, Philadelphia Gay News
"This portrait of a friend in all her complexities is lyrical, intellectual and occasionally challenging. In an austere mood, Lisicky avoids the idea of comfort for its own sake but asks, 'Couldn't there be some rigor to comfort?' The Narrow Door answers with both, in a compelling package."
--Julia Jenkins, Shelf Awareness (Starred Review)
"[Paul Lisicky] is glorious in his understanding of his own feelings and, by extension, the human heart."
--Dana Norris, The Washington Independent Review of Books
"Breathtaking and heartbreaking."
"Lisicky realized a painful truth. The closer he got to people, the more he had to realize their freedom to die and/or leave him. With empathy and emotional finesse, the author renders the fragility of interpersonal connections, and he offers insight into the complicated nature of the human heart. Honest and compassionate."
"I love this book so much that I found myself slowing to a crawl as I reached the end, not wanting to part ways quite yet. This is a portrait of a friendship unlike any I've read. In embracing the fluidity of relationships--platonic and romantic, real life and idolatrous, even human and canine--it reminds us that true connection can be as fleeting and precious as true solitude. There is a unique honesty in that revelation, and also a great if surprising comfort."
—Meghan Daum, author of The Unspeakable
"Relentlessly self-revealing, achingly tender in the way he holds his loved ones in the world, Paul Lisicky has written a memoir as raw as Jeff Tweedy fresh from rehab, and just like a Wilco album, packed with tracks so elegant in their bewilderment and sorrow, you'll want to revisit them again and again. This book charmed me, moved me, upended me, indicted me, compelled me, wrecked me, made me want to say the big YES, made me want to be better than I am."
—Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted
"The Narrow Door is a book about a long friendship, which means it's a book about everything in life: love, hope, longing, death, fallings-out, reconciliation, art, dumb jokes, deep loss. In The Narrow Door, Paul Lisicky proves, again, that he's one of our finest writers on the intricacies of the human heart. Like all of Lisicky's work, it's beautiful and brilliant."
—Elizabeth McCracken, author of Thunderstruck
"Paul Lisicky's The Narrow Door circumvents the often inscrutable forces that bring us in and out of each other's lives and hearts, while paying welcome homage to the oft-unsung role of friendship in them. While Lisicky bears witness to "the hell of wanting [that] has no cure," his ship always feels buoyant, by virtue of a narrator whose attentiveness to feelings both big and small is marked throughout by honesty and devotion."
—Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
"Intelligent and intimate, fierce and tender, real and raw, Paul Lisicky's The Narrow Door is an unforgettable memoir about love and loss, friendship and forgiveness. It had me in its thrall from page one."
—Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild
"A beautiful, funny, devastating book about love, friendship, and loss that manages to be simultaneously timeless and keenly attuned to our precarious moment. Few things I've read so perfectly capture both the communion and competitiveness of writers' friendships. The Narrow Door is a miracle of personal narrative, observation, and feeling."
—Peter Trachtenberg, author of Another Insane Devotion