Wednesday, February 21, 2007

About Alice

Calvin Trillin's book about his beloved wife Alice was an interesting book to read after finishing book 4 of In Search of Lost Time. Readers of About Alice come to feel they know her and see how much he loved her. We learn that she hated groups, believed parents should go to every performance of any school play they were in (or the county would pick up the poor abused children), pioneered teaching English in college programs that began to admit lower income minority students in the 60s. She was witty, intense, engaging, courageous, sincere, caring, self-effacing, intelligent. A great writer, teacher, mother, wife. At 50 bartenders still carded her. She was beautiful, fashionable, and yet seemingly not vain.

Though she never smoked, she had and fought lung cancer for about 25 years with grace, spirit and courage. She wrote articles on being a cancer patient, including one for JAMA that's still used in medical schools.

The book not only tells us about Alice, but about Trillin's love and appreciation for her, his desire to impress her even after 35 years of marriage.

After the first couple of chapters, I really wish I had gotten a chance to know Alice or at least meet her at a party. I'm not complaining, but it's such a contrast to reading about doomed love of a woman I think Proust's narrator sees only aspects or shadows of.

Here's a New Yorker article Alice wrote:Betting Your Life

My favorite new word from this book: aperçus

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