View from Rue Saint-Georges

Vicarious Pleasure

The joy of seeing a friend succeed

By Thomas Chatterton Williams | August 14, 2019

For seven of the past eight summers, I, together with my best friend from college and the godfather of my five-year-old daughter, Josh Yaffa, have rented a house somewhere in Italy to spend a week with family and friends. Josh, a Moscow correspondent for The New Yorker, will publish his first book in January—a novelistic tour through Putin’s Russia as seen through the lives of ordinary men and women forced, in various ways, to compromise. He’s also a phenomenal amateur chef. My days spent sous-cheffing with him in the kitchen and discussing our literary ambitions feel especially poignant this August, some 20 years almost since we met in our freshman dormitory at Georgetown. We were the only two people we knew who wanted to become writers, and neither of us had a single connection or clue as to how to begin. I remember asking him about 10 years ago whether he thought it realistic that either of us would publish an article in The New York Times by the time we were 30. He said yes, I was doubtful (he was right).

Witnessing the hard-won success of a dear friend is a deeply gratifying privilege. Having a brother in arms with whom to share the journey, on and off the page, is even better. Maybe by the time we turn 40, Josh will find a way to combine his two passions and open a seasonal restaurant somewhere by the sea!

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