I enjoy reading essays and have discovered several wonderful writers by reading their essays. Sometimes I read a book and find out they wrote essays and search until I find them. I'm seldom disappointed. It's a habit I acquired a few years ago when someone introduced me to Henry Miller. I had already read Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn years before and then I was guided to the essays. I was entranced and inspired, so inspired I began writing more essays and getting published. I had found my way.
A couple years ago, I discovered a columnist/essayist named Caroline Knapp through an Amazon suggestion. I had just finished reading Elizabeth Young's book of essays and literary criticism, found by way of her chick lit books, and Caroline Knapp seemed interesting, and she was. The only complaint I had, and still have, is that Young and Knapp are both dead. They each died too early and left too many books and essays unwritten and I feel the loss. So, imagine my surprise when one of the books sent for review is a book that is about Caroline Knapp by her friend, Gail Caldwell: Let's Take the Long Way Home. Serendipity. Pure serendipity.
I was in the midst of Deadly Fear by Cynthia Eden and decided to take a look at Caldwell's book. It was short and Caldwell won a Pulitzer Prize, and I wanted to see why. Caldwell writes about her friendship with Brutita, her nickname for Caroline Knapp, and their dogs, which is what brought them together. They were as different as night and day on the outside -- Caroline short and blonde and very upper class and Gail tall, dark and rangy as a Texan should be. Caroline was a rower and Gail a swimmer, Mutt and Jeff on the water. Their love of their dogs and the friendship that grew out of their similarities (both recovering alcoholics, very shy and writers) are the poignant threads that shine throughout the memoir. Serendipity. That's how I discovered this connection and how it came to me.
Gail writes that her friends call her the gregarious hermit. I can relate to that. I am sure there are many writers who relate to those seemingly opposite words. Someone who is friendly and open and outgoing and yet spends most of their time alone, by choice, to wrestle and communicate with the muse. Caroline was politely persistent and Gail finally relented, forging and cementing a friendship that resulted in Caroline leaving too soon. Gail inherited Caroline's beloved dog and some other personal memorabilia, and she inherited memories of the kind of friendship that most people long to share, the kind that changes and makes one better, more in touch with themselves and with the world. What more could anyone want?
More life to write more essays and books.
I look forward to the next serendipitous entry into my life and essays that will inspire and fire my imagination. Don't we all?
That is all. Disperse.