Los Angeles will miss Mary Herczog [Updated]
When news got around that Mary Herczog died earlier this week, people asked if I knew her. I didn't, but it seems as if everyone I knew did. Herczog, 45, had written for the Los Angeles Times, published a couple of books and done her time in the L.A. literary scene. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at 33, got over it, got cancer again, got over it, and got it a final and third time. "My goose, she is cooked," she wrote on her blog, CancerChick, in January.
Lisa Derrick, a friend of Herczog's, wrote about Herczog:
She and her husband Steve Hochman were models of a loving, caring relationship, a partnership of spirit and flesh, each complimenting the other, bringing out their strengths, balancing their energies. Together they traveled the world, exploring the relics of saints, the sights and food of foreign lands while venturing into the interior mysteries of life and death and love eternal as they spent the last dozen years with the uninvited spectral guest of cancer.
And oh how she loved food. And punk rock. And jazz. And books. And people. And clothes. And Las Vegas which she also documented for Frommers. History and parties and theology and philosophy and pop culture and and and…Mary loved. Mary lived. And loved living.
Herczog and Hochman were married in Louisiana; Herczog wrote the travel guide "Frommers New Orleans" and bought a house in the city. Wesly Moore, another friend, wrote:
New Orleans will always and forever be inseparable in my mind from her deep and abiding love for the place.... Mary loved to read. For Christmas she gave me a copy of The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. I confessed that I had never heard of Lydia Davis, and she confessed that neither had she, but she had it on good authority that I as a lover of short stories must read these, as they were nothing short of the form’s perfection. I have still read only just a handful of the stories, and I never had the chance to tell her that I find them oddly, weirdly brilliant, and that rather than sinking into me they seem to stick on my surface. I’m sure she would have looked at me, sideways and penetrating, and said, “Hmmm,” by which she invariably meant, “That is fascinating, and I’m so very glad you told me. You must tell me more.”
It is unfortunate to become acquainted with someone after they're gone. But writers have a unique kind of staying power; Herczog's website, which chronicles her travel adventures, remains online, and her stories for the LA Times are gathered here. In all her writing, her voice is very much alive.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
[Updated 10:30am 2/20/10: an earlier version of this post attributed Moore's writing to Derrick, and stated the Herczog was married in New Orleans; she was married in another town in Louisiana]
Photo: Mary Herczog at home in 2002. Credit: Béatrice de Géa / Los Angeles Times