If you read a lot then buying library sized lots of books can be an expensive hobby, so I often scour charity shops, secondhand book shops and borrow; and came across this in a Save the Children shop and bought it solely because my daughter’s name is Alice. I re read this more than any other book that I posses, so it seems fitting that it’s the first one I write about.
Alice Trillin was the wife of Calvin Trillin, a writer for the New Yorker, and this slim book is a distillation of some of the articles he wrote about/ for her and also their love story. Alongside a couple of other books it’s part of my blueprint for how to live you life when you need some external guidance.
The beauty of how this man views this woman breaks my heart every time . As a great reader of romance novels I have never come across anything that describes love in a way that makes you want to grab the sentiment and cradle it as if it was your own like this does for me, and yet it is not sentimental or fauxmantic in any way.
Although my daughter wasn’t named after her, we just liked the name, part of me would like to think that there is a prophetic link and that somehow my Alice will inherit some of AT’s traits. Calvin brings Alice to life in way that she illuminates the pages with her spirit shining with humanity, love and empathy for those under her protection at her memorial Nora Ephron described these as “anyone she loved, or liked, or knew, or didn’t quite know but knew someone who did, or didn’t know from a hole in the wall but had just gotten a telephone call from because they’d found the number in the telephone book.”
As a non smoker who was diagnosed with kung cancer in her 30’s she measured how you held up in the face of a life threatening illness was not how much you changed but how much you stayed the same, in control of your own identity, a metaphor really for life.
Calvin Trillin has written other fantastic books, but in About Alice he’s not only depicted a woman who not only do I feel that I know and hugely admire but who has influenced me more than I can express. In a letter to her daughters she told then”to worry about being kind and generous to other people, to be honest with yourself and with others, to find meaning in the work you do, not to over-value financial success.” In Calvin’s words she believed in the transformative power of pure, undiluted love. I would like to believe that eventually, we all do.
I would say that my personality tends towards the obsessive, and I can become something of a one trick pony, reading and re-reading passages from books and also listening on repeat to songs, occasionally both of these things happen concurrently – as with this song by Devon Sproule + Mike O’Neil from their amazing album Colours. I can’t hear it without thinking about Alice.