Today, I’m talking with Nina Boutsikaris
. Her new book is called I’m Trying to Tell You I’m Sorry: An Intimacy Triptych
(Black Lawrence Press, 2019). And if you’ve ever said those words—I’m trying to tell you I’m sorry—you know they usually come at some crisis point in a conversation that’s already underway. A misunderstanding has happened or some confusion has started to mount, and so you try to reset and make things clear: “Hey look, I’m trying to apologize!” Boutsikaris makes this gesture throughout her book, yet the “you” to whom she’s speaking is not as simple as any one person. She speaks to friends and former lovers, artists and theorists, members of her own family, and, ultimately, to her younger self. Nor is she carrying on one conversation. She’s trying to describe what it means to be a self, a female self, one living through illness, loneliness, desire, and the aspiration to make art. And finally, her book is no simple apology. It’s more of a reckoning, an attempt to understand who we are in our brokenness and in our hopes. So if it is an apology, it’s an apology in the classic sense of the genre, like the one Socrates gives in Plato’s famous dialogue where he defends the value of philosophy or like the apology that Sir Philip Sydney gives in defense of poetry. In this classic sense, an apology is not merely apologizing, merely saying, “I’m sorry.” It’s offering a full account. It’s showing why, whatever the charge, whatever the crime, the case is more complex than those charging you could ever imagine and that not only are you perhaps not guilty and not only are those who accuse you perhaps not innocent, but also that guilt and innocence are too simple as categories to make sense of our complex and messy lives. It takes an apology like Boutsikaris gives to reveal that complexity and help us live with it and in it rather than reduce it to some simple—and false—truth.
Eric LeMay is on the creative writing faculty at Ohio University. His work ranges from food writing to electronic literature. He is the author of three books, most recently
In Praise of Nothing: Essay, Memoir, and Experiments (Emergency Press, 2014). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.