I just finished reading the most amazing book called About Alice. Calvin Trillin has been a favorite author of mine since my friend Zack told me about him back when we were both in college. Zack is a writer, an intelligent and likeable guy from Memphis who ran with the same crowd I did in college. Even back then he had a subscription to the New Yorker and I found that incredibly impressive. Zack was a sportswriter for our school paper, and before long I found I had been talked into writing a column for that same paper. I wrote about musical things, usually. I interviewed George Crumb when he came to visit our campus and I made a pilgrimage to Chicago one spring break to a week-long seminar featuring John Cage as the distinguished guest. But in my column, which was truly an editorial in the “Perspectives” section, I also wrote weekly about sorority life or campus politics or interesting people I encountered in the cafeteria. Back in the days before everyone was blogging, I enjoyed having the chance to write about whatever was on my mind. People read my columns, too. I recall once a professor of mine pulled a folded up square of newspaper out of his wallet and quoted my own words back to me. He was challenging me on a point I was trying to make, but what I remember about that moment was that he read my writings even when he didn’t have to.
I loved working in the newsroom among people I suspected would go on to do it for a living. Many of them did. I knew my calling was elsewhere but I really savored the twice-weekly deadines and the general camaraderie of that room. The honest truth is that I think I learned more about writing from that group of my peers than I did in any English class along the way.
I sat on my couch this afternoon reading Calvin Trillin’s shockingly moving book (which should only take an hour or two, it’s such a compact little thing) and twice found myself sobbing. Maybe it’s because I’m a mother now and I look at the world so much through the eyes of children. Maybe it’s because I savor the eloquent and precise ways Trillin puts words together to portray a marriage so intimiate and so nurtured. Maybe it’s because my own husband is out of town and I know he was moved by the book when he read it a few weeks ago. (At the risk of being way too narcissistic, read his blog entry here and tell me you aren’t bowled over, too.) All I know is I can’t recommend it highly enough. How lucky we are.