Wednesday, February 28, 2007

about 'about alice'

I'm still not sure I can read fiction, even historical fiction, as I slog through gore vidal's Lincoln. Its no fault of vidal's, its my own failings with fiction that have slowed me down.

I did, however, take a brief respite from lincoln, for about an hour this morning, to read about alice by calvin trillin, his beautiful and eloquent eulogy for his wife. its the yin to joan didion's yang. but rather than write a meditation of the process of grief, he writes a funny, loving portrait of his wife who died on Sept 11, 2001 from cardiac complications precipitated by her treatment for cancer 25 years earlier. its romantic in the best way - a way that is not at all saccharine or overly sentimental, but always adoring.

and after you read it, read some of his interviews about writing the book, which started as a piece for - what else? - the new yorker:

Q: Is it a little odd, to be a famous funny-guy writer talking about such a solemn subject so close to your own heart?

A: Yes, I was concerned about the book tour, whether I wanted to do it at all. My daughters were a little concerned, too.

Originally, I wasn't going to answer questions, just read. But I began at a friendly bookstore not far from my neighborhood in New York, and found I could answer questions OK. I've had moments where I've had to stop and sort of collect myself, but all in all it's been fine.

The hard part's when I get questions that I don't know anything about, like about making a good marriage. I can't believe people are actually good or bad at it. I think mainly you just meet the right people. It's not satisfying to people to tell them that luck has a lot to do with it, but in fact I think it's true.

So that's my advice: Wander into the right party. Just that. It's like the advice I give about childrearing: Try to get one that doesn't spit up. The rest is up to you.


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