Yesterday I finished reading Gail Caldwell’s Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship. The book is the story of Caldwell’s relationship with writer Caroline Knapp, who died of lung cancer in 2002.
Caldwell, a Pulitzer Prize winner for criticism, captures the intricacies of friendship with a striking poignancy. Looking at my copy I realize I’ve dogeared plenty of pages throughout, something I almost never do.
When I highlight passages, I never know exactly what to do with them. It’s not like I have someone to share these nuggets of wisdom or poetry with.
So, here, few lines that gave me pause:
“Finding Caroline was like placing a personal ad for an imaginary friend, then having her show up at your door funnier and better than you had conceived.”
“”We talked for the rest of the walk about what a swampland this was: the world of envy and rivalry and self-doubt (between women, and writers, and women writers), about insecurity and power differentials.”
“I had a number of old and solid friendships, male and female both, but these days most of the local ones belonged in the second circle of intimacy—the people you’d call when you were hit by a bus, but not necessarily if you’d merely sprained an ankle.”
“’Men don’t really understand women’s friendships, do they?’ I once asked my friend Louise, a writer who lived in Minnesota. ‘Oh God, no,’ she said. ‘And we must never tell them.’”
“Most of us wander in and out of one another’s lives until not death, but distance, does us part—time and space and the heart’s weariness are the blander executioners of human connection.”
I share these quotes because in many of these cases Caldwell has summed into one sentence what it often takes me an entire post to communicate—I mean, the want ad? Hellooo? That’s me! (The one placing the ad, clearly, not the “funnier and better” one.)
In Knapp, Caldwell found the very BFF I’ve been looking for. I certainly don’t wish her story on myself—I can’t even fathom the pain—but it’s interesting to read the tale of someone who found her friendship soul mate later in life, when she wasn’t really looking. Apparently, it really happens.
Have you read Let’s Take The Long Way Home? What’d you think? And do you have any recommendations for my friendship-memoir reading series?
I meant to say this yesterday, but we’re still in New Year territory right? Right?!? Anyway… A great way to start your 2011 on a friendly foot might be to “like” the MWF Seeking BFF Facebook page. Get updates on posts, MWF news (I think 2011 will be a big year!) and join the discussions. Or just do it ‘cause we’re such good friends. Thanks!
8 responses to “Friendship Memoir: Let’s Take the Long Way Home”
I, too, loved Caldwell’s book, and found that she conveyed certain things that I’d always held deeply (and stumbled to articulate) in gorgeous, simple terms. My favorite part was about she and Caroline had always worried about being “too much” – too intense, too serious, too sensitive – in their other relationships and with each other finally they had come home.
I admire your courage to share what lots of us feel but would never admit out loud.
I loved reading Caldwell’s book. It was definitely a unique relationship and I believe the friendship those two shared was extremely rare. Caldwell definitely has a gift of conveying strong emotion and sentiment in very few words.
Have you read Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett? Its also a very striking memoir about friendship.
What terrific quotes — thanks so much for sharing. I had seen the book but these excerpts make me want to go pick it up right now. Love when that happens!
I just finished reading Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah. It is a great story about a friendship that is formed between two young girls. It follows them through their lives. My daughter picked it out at the book store for herself and then I read it. It was so touching, it made me cry at the end.
Loved this book…and I am not a memior reader as I doubt them so. However, this memior was true, and awesome and thoughtful. I also loved Caroline Knapp’s book: “Drinking, A love story.”
I read about this book in Texas Monthly a while back and it’s been on my reading list. Might have to move it up a few slots. : )
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