Ellen Willis, who died in November at the age of 64, was such a unique and wonderful set of contradictions—or seeming contradictions. She was a staunchly radical feminist who believed in pleasure, happiness, and freedom. She was a fierce polemicist on the page who, in person, was often painfully shy. She loved long nineteenth-century novels, but was an ardent reader of the tabloids. She was one of the most instinctively ethical people I have ever known, and yet she hated any hint of sanctimony or self-righteousness. She was a dyed-in-the-wool bohemian who was obsessed with real estate—which is to say, she was a true New Yorker. And for me, part of the fun, and the adventure, of being Ellen's friend and colleague was discovering that these disparate characteristics weren't really contradictions at all: that somehow, in her inimitable way, she had put all the pieces together.


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