Phillip Lopate wrote "My Brother, My Life (With Apologies to Pasternak)" for the essay collection Brothers: 26 Stories of Love and Rivalry. It is perhaps not his best, most probing essay – I would most recommend Notes on Sontag or Against Joie de Vivre for those interested –, nor is it really his most interesting – it likely reads as downright boring and solipsistic to those who haven't been otherwise drawn to his writing –, but I've chosen to highlight it here because it seems emblematic of his unyielding demand to push himself as far as his curiosity will take him in the pursuit of exploring the various truths lurking beneath his subjects. The subject here is his relationship to his brother, Leonard, who hosts the popular WNYC program The Leonard Lopate Show. It is ultimately, I find, a very moving essay; but first Lopate airs, with little deference to propriety or defending his ego, as many conflicts and neuroses, as pithily and selflessly as always, as he can muster: the whole thing reads, in a way, as a brief litany of the effects of brotherhood. He is as unafraid of discussing the more ugly and unforgiving considerations of himself and his brother – and therefore the less sympathetic ones, no matter how nearly universal they may be – as he is the more sentimental ones. This isn't a particularly pleasant essay – most of his are phenomenally enjoyable, witty, and endlessly insightful – nor is it, perhaps, a particularly memorable one; but, in making himself and his brother his subject, he has given himself the difficult task of approaching this new subject with the unpretentious dauntlessness and capaciousness that has defined his style and analytical obdurateness – one that, due to his humane spirit, rarely feels merciless; but certainly it can be, and herein it is –, and he has endowed the subject with a fearless, searching truthfulness that I greatly admire. The essay may be read here.
The photo for this post is of Phillip's brother, Leonard Lopate, and was taken by Shanna Ravindra.