Ned Vizzini made me cry twice, the second time was today, when I read that he’d died at the young age of 32. That he was in such pain that he felt there was no other way out breaks my heart so, for his wife, for his son, and for anyone who has lost someone to depression.
I cry for my friend David Kahn. He committed suicide a few years ago, too. I think about him so often it surprises me. He had a sweet, sweet smile and when I think of him, he always has that smile going on.
I didn’t know Ned, but he was on my podcast once, on an episode called Library Love. We were at a book festival together, and I asked him for a childhood memory about libraries. This is what he told me, transcribed from the podcast.
“When I was about 13, I became very focused on getting into a specialized high school in Manhattan called Stuyvesant High School. I used to study for the Stuyvesant test at the Brooklyn Public Library, neared Grand Army Plaza in Park Slope. As I walked into the library, I saw inscribed in stone on the wall a poem: Here are enshrined the longing of great hearts and noble things that tower above the tide. The magic word that winged wonder starts, the garnered wisdom that never dies. I kept studying math and science to try to past this test, but every time I passed the poem, I would read it, and it would make me really want to read a great book or write a good book. In the years since, it’s one of the only poems I’ve ever memorized. I just find it really inspiring to think of what’s inside a library as the magic word that winged wonder starts. It’s not the words that create the wonder; it’s the wonder that creates the words. I’ve tried to look it up and see who wrote it, and it’s only accredited to the Brooklyn Public Library. So, that apparently is the entity behind it and I’m very thankful for them in helping inspire me to become a writer.”
When he was done, I had a hard time speaking due to the lump in my throat. I thought it was so beautiful, that he was moved by this poem he’d memorized and became a writer because of it. That was the first time I met him and he made me cry.
He made me cry again today. You will be missed, Ned Vizzini. But you won’t be forgotten.