Companionship in Grief
Love and Loss in the Memoirs of C. S. Lewis, John Bayley, Donald Hall, Joan Didion, and Calvin Trillen
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
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Table of Contents
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Introduction: “The Lost Other Is an Ongoing Part of Our Existence”
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I never imagined I would write a book about deceased spouses. But then Barbara died on April 5, 2004, after a twenty-month struggle with pancreatic cancer. Immediately after her death I began writing a memoir about our life together after her diagnosis on August 12, 2002, one day after our thirty-fourth wedding anniversary. Writing about Barbara ...
One: C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman: “Never Have I Loved Her More than since She Was Struck Down”
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Clive Staples Lewis, known to his relatives and friends as “Jack” and to the rest of the world as C. S. Lewis, was one of the most prolific and influential writers of the twentieth century. He was the most famous “Christian apologist”—that is, defender of the Christian faith—of the century. A Renaissance man, he wrote dozens of books on a wide variety of subjects: literary criticism (including medieval and Renaissance ...
Two: John Bayley and Iris Murdoch: “In Widowhood You Lose Not Only Your Loved One but Much of Yourself ”
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John Bayley had written one novel and several books of literary criticism before his wife, Iris Murdoch, began developing Alzheimer’s disease in the mid 1990s, but he was not a memoirist, nor did he seem interested in autobiographical writing. He appeared to share his wife’s suspicion of self-disclosure; she insisted that her novels were about “fictional” char-...
Three: Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon “Art Is Created against Death”
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Donald Hall’s relationship with Jane Kenyon began in 1969, when she enrolled in his large undergraduate course An Introduction to Poetry for Non-English Majors at the University of Michigan. He never met her individually in the class of 140 students, but the following summer she was accepted into his small poetry workshop. He recognized her talent ...
Four: Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne: “Life Changes in the Instant”
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Joan Didion’s best-selling memoir The Year of Magical Thinking was published in 2005, scarcely a year after the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, who was, like her, an acclaimed novelist, essayist, and screenwriter. They were married nearly forty years. His sudden death—they were eating dinner in their apartment in New York City on ...
Five: Calvin Trillin and Alice Stewart Trillin: “I Wrote Everything for Alice”
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Calvin Trillin, the popular New Yorker humorist, food critic, journalist, and novelist, described by the Boston Globe as “America’s quietest great writer,” has written more than twenty books on wide-ranging topics, but the subject to which he returns repeatedly is his beloved wife, Alice Stewart Trillin. Her name appears in the titles of two of his books, Alice, ...
Conclusion: “It Is Possible to Be Bereft and Not Bereft Simultaneously”
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... I can’t imagine anyone choosing to be grief-stricken (except, perhaps, a masochist), and yet grief can be good, as we see from the dialogue in Philip K. Dick’s 1975 novel Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (102). Now that I’m completing Companionship in Grief, I can see how other memoirists have discovered the ways in which grief can be not only good but also transformative, allowing them to commemorate and honor the ...
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Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 5 color photos, 2 b&w photos, 4 line drawings
Publication Year: 2010