Two months ago, we both read a book, not as a part of a book club, but as two individuals with distinct personalities who happen to click on the same articles on the internet. The book was Second Place by Rachel Cusk. It’s about a writer and her husband who invite a mean mean painter named L. to their marsh so that everyone involved can fall apart emotionally.
While it does not reach the heights of Cusk’s Outline trilogy, the book hooked us both with its timely depiction of the claustrophobia of cohabitation, its insights on artistic genius and obsession, and an especially memorable comedic set piece wherein someone accidentally plagiarizes the entirety of Lord of the Rings and then proceeds to read his manuscript in full to an increasingly horrified audience.
Yet there is one thing we cannot get out of our minds: The entire book is written in direct address to a character named Jeffers. For example: “I often thought, Jeffers, during those days, of the importance of sustainability, and of how little we consider it in the decisions and actions we take.”
Every morning we greet the sun with one question on our lips: Who is Jeffers? As we browse heirloom tomatoes at the farmer’s market, the impenetrable Jeffers remains on our minds. As we fall asleep, we whisper to the wind and the sirens yet again: Who is he?
We might read books, but we have no intellectual curiosity, so we had no idea until a colleague Googled it for us that Cusk’s book was written in homage to the twentieth century artistic patron Mabel Dodge Luhan’s Lorenzo in Taos, a memoir about a period when D.H. Lawrence stayed on her ranch. Luhan’s book is an address to the poet Robinson Jeffers, so that settles that. But according to multiple reviews of Second Place, Cusk’s Jeffers, unlike Luhan’s, “remains a mystery."
Who is Jeffers?
Is he Jeffrey “Jeffers” Epstein?
Thomas “Jeffers” Jefferson?
Jeff “Jeffers” VanderMeer?
Jeffrey “Jeffers” Garten?
Jeff “Jeffers” Winger as played by Joel McHale on the sitcom Community?
Jeffrey “Jeffers” Bezos?
Jeff “Jeffers” Goldblum?
Jeff “Jeffers” Bridges?
Quibi’s Jeffrey “Jeffers” Katzenberg?
Jeff “Jeffers” Flake?
Jeffrey “Jeffers” Campbell?
Jeff “Jeffers” Mangum?
Jeff “Jeffers” Gordon?
Margo “Jeffers” Jefferson? (Women can be Jeffers.)
Jeff “Jeffers” Koons?
As we asked these questions, Jeffers, we felt the truth slipping farther and farther away. Must we continue, Jeffers, to make a home in the void of your absence?
Jeffers, are you there????