Alice, from Calvin Trillin

March 21st, 2006 by john

As the deadline poet for The Nation, Calvin Trillin is reliably tart and funny. But his sad and lovely remembrance of his late wife, Alice, in the March 27 issue of The New Yorker (on newsstands but not, unfortunately, online) is personal narrative at its best.

“A year before Alice died, I read an obituary in the Times of Mary Francis, who had been married to the English mystery novelist Dick Francis for fifty-three years. ‘I don’t think I shall write again other than letters now,’ Dick Francis was quoted as saying. ‘So much of my work was her.’ Apparently, Mary Francis had been such an active participant in her husband’s work, particularly in the matter of research, that he considered the novels a joint effort. She had been well educated, and Dick Francis was conscious of being a novelist who had left school at fifteen to become a jockey. The article implied that he might not be able to produce a book without her help. But I read his reluctance to write novels without her another way. As I understood what he was saying, she was the one he’d been trying to impress.”

(Is this kind of stuff why some people have it in for TNY?)