An Open Letter to Hannah Horvath

• April 20, 2017 10:36 am


Dear Hannah,

I am not, in fact, the first person to write you a letter concerning the finale of the television show in which you are a fictional character, but I am almost certainly the only such correspondent whose t-shirt has been praised by your creator (she must be a big Dinosaur Jr. fan!). I am also, I would guess, the only one with whom she has discussed the social magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.

Anyway, I just wanted to say congratulations on your beautiful boy, Grover. When I met Lena we had a nice, long—at least by the standards of random celebrity encounters—conversation about baby names. She was full of praise for "Thisbe," the name of my elder daughter. She is also one of the only people I have ever met who has asked me whether my wife and I had in mind Ovid's Metamorphoses or Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream (the answer is the latter). Thanks to her, your son also has a beautiful name. I wish I could ask her whether, when she put it in the mouth of your fictional deadbeat father, she had in mind the 22nd and 24th president of the United States or the beloved contraction-averse furry monster from Sesame Street, another HBO program. I'm sure he will be one of your son's favorite characters one day. Children tend to delight in little seeming coincidences of this kind.

Watching you try to figure out how to strap a baby to yourself (a struggle with which I am more than passingly familiar), I am reminded that when I first saw you we were both penniless interns. How time flies! I'm still not exactly sure what it means to be an adult as opposed to a boy or girl, but I think adulthood, whatever it is, has happened to both of us in the meantime. Hurray, I guess? Making your own money, getting fatter, appearing in the pages of some of your favorite magazines, maybe even meeting some people you admire: it's really something.

Which brings me back to my conversation with your creator. When I asked her to sign the "Stronger Together" sign that I had taken from the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, I sheepishly mentioned that my wife and I are pro-life. "It’s, like, just your personal belief, right?" she asked me. I explained to her that it was not, that we believe abortion is murder—surely none of us is only personally against murder? Then we talked about the advent of modern Catholic social teaching under Pope Leo XIII and the necessity of the just wage and other issues and the history of the Democratic Party.

Eventually she wrote a message on the sign I'd brought, singling out three people—my wife, Thisbe, and our then-unborn daughter, Violet. Allow me to quote it: "Dear Lydia, You are righteous. I admire your passion. But please vote for Thisbe and Violet. They need you. Love, Lena." Your creator insists that she is an enthusiastic supporter of infanticide, but she is also clearly capable of conceiving of unborn children as, well, children. And some part of her, I think, realizes that your having little Grover done over for your convenience—while it would be a well-received political statement and win her plenty of acclaim from the usual quarters—would not have made for a very good story. It certainly wouldn't have been a happy one. And my guess is that she is a little too clever and self-aware for the dull and pompous world of Clintonism. Her ads on behalf of Hillary Clinton always seemed more like knowing parodies—like the scene in which you pretend that you have dumped your boyfriend because he is a conservative rather than because he didn't like your essay—than earnest attempts at winning over young people. Anyway, I'm not sure whether you two ever have conversations—many good writers, Evelyn Waugh, for example, actually hate their characters—but if you do, maybe you could suggest that she go back to writing winsome little essays like the one about puppies she did for the New Yorker years ago.

In closing, I wish you and little Grover all the best. Even parenting eventually gets easier, I'm told.