Lone Pilgrim

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Overview

This collection of stories about love and privacy is serious , funny, tender, and alive with the elegance and spirit that characterize Laurie Colwin's work. In these stories, the reader moves among young men and women: pianists, historians, book illustrators, architects; women who are composed and inimitably sassy; and men who are magnetic, adventurous in love, or fiendishly elusive. They are people who are experiencing, often for the first time, the starting, enriching, and ...

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Overview

This collection of stories about love and privacy is serious , funny, tender, and alive with the elegance and spirit that characterize Laurie Colwin's work. In these stories, the reader moves among young men and women: pianists, historians, book illustrators, architects; women who are composed and inimitably sassy; and men who are magnetic, adventurous in love, or fiendishly elusive. They are people who are experiencing, often for the first time, the starting, enriching, and maddening complications of adult life.

A collection of stories about love and privacy that are serious, funny, tender and alive with elegance and spirit.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060958930
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/28/2001
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 412,700
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Laurie Colwin

Laurie Colwin is the author of five novels: Happy All the Time; Family Happiness; Goodbye Without Leaving; Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object; and A Big Storm Knocked It Over; three collections of short stories: Passion and Affect, Another Marvelous Thing, and The Lone Pilgrim; and two collections of essays: Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. She died in 1992.

Biography

Born in Manhattan, Laurie Colwin grew up in Long Island, Chicago, and Philadelphia, but it was the middle and upper-class city dwellers of New York City that proved fertile ground for her short stories and novels.

Colwin was the editor of her high school newspaper, then attended Bard College in upstate New York, the Sorbonne in Paris, the New School for Social Research and Columbia University in New York City before establishing a successful career in publishing. She started with Sanford Greenberger International Publishers and eventually worked with a string of leading publishers, including Putnam, Pantheon, Viking Press and E. P. Dutton. Although she had a satisfying career as an editor, Colwin nurtured her writing style during these years as well, and in 1977, she left the publishing world and devoted herself entirely to writing.

One of Colwin's first short stories was published in The New Yorker in 1969, and she followed this early success with stories in Cosmopolitan, Playboy, Redbook, Mademoiselle and Harper's. Her first book of stories, Passion and Affect (1974), proved her talent as a writer -- the Los Angeles Times cheered that she had "single-handedly revitalized the short story." In 1977, Colwin won an O. Henry Award for short fiction for the story The Lone Pilgrim, which was later the title of a collection of 14 stories released in 1981. By the time her final book of short stories, Another Marvelous Thing, hit the stands in 1986, Colwin's readers and critics were hooked on her ability to examine troubled relationships with a refreshing clarity and sensitivity.

In between publishing short stories, Colwin delivered a number of unforgettable novels. Her first novel, Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object (1975), tells the touching story of a widow's attempts to cope with a life she never imagined. She soon released her second novel, Happy All the Time (1978), which critics and readers loved for the amusing portrayal of the love lives of middle and upper-class men and women. Newsweek said of the book, "the successful depiction of happiness is rare enough to qualify Colwin's novel as daring experimental fiction." Her third novel, Family Happiness (1982), deftly explores the nuances of an extra-marital affair, and Goodbye Without Leaving (1990) is a hilarious look at a woman baring her rock-and-roll soul.

Food and its rituals play a precious role in Colwin's life and career; given her talent for exploring the comic, vulnerable side of humanity in her fiction, it's no surprise that her non-fiction does the same. She wrote regular columns for Gourmet magazine -- insightful and soothing articles and recipes that celebrate the joys of cooking for one or many. More essays and recipes were published in the book Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen (1988). Part memoir, part cookbook, Home Cooking is full of honest and downright funny essays with titles such as "Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant," "Repulsive Dinners: A Memoir" and "Stuffed Breast of Veal: A Bad Idea."

In October 1992, Laurie Colwin suffered a fatal heart attack in her home in Manhattan at the young age of 48. She is survived by her husband and daughter, as well as millions of devoted readers who have been missing her sparkling wit ever since. Her last two books were published posthumously in 1993. More Home Cooking, her second book of culinary essays, continues Colwin's passion for discovering what makes good food great. A Big Storm Knocked It Over, her final novel, once again attempts to unravel the comic mysteries of human relationships.

Ultimately, Colwin wrote both fiction and non-fiction in a quest to get at the core of humanity – to understand love wherever it existed, recognize the humor in humans, and to give readers something they might not have realized they were missing: a happy ending.

Good To Know

A talented chef, Colwin cooked for student protesters occupying campus buildings during the 1968 uprisings at Columbia University, and later volunteered as a cook for the Coalition for the Homeless and the Antonio Olivieri Shelter for Homeless Women.

Among her achievements as an editor, Colwin discovered author Fran Liebowitz while at Dutton, and she edited and translated works by Isaac Bashevis Singer, winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize in Literature.

From fan and fellow columnist Nancy Pate's touching tribute to Colwin:

"None of us had ever met Colwin except through her writing. But we felt as if we knew her from those stories.

"We knew that she liked animals and small children, quilts and pretty plates, family and friends, men who were good dancers and good kissers.

"We knew that she loved music, from classical greats like Boccherini and Brahms, to rock 'n' roll legends like the Everly Brothers and Jerry Lee Lewis. She knew all the words to the Crystals' 'He's a Rebel.'

She loved to read, and to cook."

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    1. Date of Birth:
      June 14, 1944
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      October 25, 1992
    2. Place of Death:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Bard College; M.A., Columbia University

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Lone Pilgrim

I have been the house pet to several families: friendly, cheerful, good with children, and, most important, I have an acute sensitivity to the individual rhythms of family life. I blend in perfectly, without losing myself. A good houseguest is like an entertainer: Judy Garland, Alfred Hitchcock, Noel Coward. You know what a specific public wants-in my case, groups of two, with children.

For example, Paul and Vera Martin and their children, Ben and Violet. Paul and Vera are lawyers. Paul spends rainy Sundays fishing, and although Vera is a good cook, she is not fond of cleaning fish, so Paul's grandfather's knife is entrusted to me. I do the neat job of a surgeon. Vera, who likes precision, was so impressed by my initial performance that she allowed me into her kitchen, and we have been cooking together ever since. I knew by instinct where she would keep her pots, her baking dishes, her mixing bowls, her silverware. If you are interested in people, their domestic arrangements are of interest, too. That's the sort of student of human conduct I am.

In Maine, I visit Christopher and Jean Goodison and their little son jean Luc. The Goodisons are haphazard housekeepers, but I have their routine down pat. Their baby and I get along famously. We have a few moments together: a hailstorm he observed from my lap; a lesson in crawling; an afternoon with a kitten. The best way with babies, I have come to know, is quietude. Never approach first. Be casual. Pay minimal tactile attention, and never try to make them love you. You can sit on the same sofa with a child and do nothing more than clutch its little foot fromtime to time, and before long you will have that child on your lap.

The Goodisons will leave jean Luc with me when they go shopping, although ordinarily -- with ordinary mortals, that is-they are very protective of their son. When they return, I surprise them with a Lady Baltimore cake. Alone in their house, I admire their Shaker table, the fancy-back spoons I find mixed in with their spatulas, the dried-flower arrangements in their lusterware pitchers.

And there are others: the Hartwells in Boston, who live in a Spartan apartment decorated with city-planning. charts. The rigorous Mazzinas, who take me camping. The jerricks, who dress for dinner and bring you a breakfast tray on Sunday morning: coffee, toast, and a small vase with a single flower in it. My friends admire my charm, my sagacity, my propriety, and my positive talent for fitting in with the daily life of others while holding my own.

The adhesive tape on my mailbox reads "P. Rice." Paula Rice, that is, known to all as Polly. I am the charming girl illustrator. I did the pictures for Hector the Hero, The Pig Who Said Pneu, Fish with Feathers, Snow White and Rose Red, and The I Don't Care Papers-all children's books. Five feet four, reddish hair, brown eyes, long legs. At college, I studied medieval French literature, but kept a sketchbook with me at all times. During the summers, I studied calligraphy, papermaking, and bookbinding, and worked as an apprentice at the Lafayette Press, printers of fine editions. I make a living illustrating children's books, but to please myself I do etchings and ink drawings, which I often present to friends on special occasions -- marriages, anniversaries, birthdays.

On the side, I am a perfect houseguest. I have the temperament for it. Being a designer teaches you the habit of neatness, and an appreciation for a sense of order not your own. Being a houseguest allows you to fantasize with no one crowding you. After all, you are but a guest, an adornment. Your object is to give pleasure to your hosts. Lolling around in other people's houses allows your mind to drift. Inspired by my surroundings, I indulge myself in this lazy, scene-setting kind of thought. For example: a big yellow moon; the kitchen of an old house in an academic community. On the window ledge a jar of homemade jam, a pot of chives, a cutting of grape ivy in a cracked mug. A big dog sleeps in front of the stove. If you open the window, you feel the crisp October air. An apple pie or a loaf of bread is in the oven, and the house is warm with the scent of it. You wonder if it is time to deal with the last pumpkin, or to pickle the, basket of green tomatoes. In the study, your husband is drowsing over an elevating book, a university-press book in blue wrappers. You are wearing a corduroy skirt, a chic blouse, and a sweater of your husband's is tied around your shoulders. You are a woman contemplating seasonal change.

Or you go to the Martins on a rainy night. They occupy two floors of a Victorian brownstone, and as you contemplate the polished moldings and watch the rain through the leaded windows, you feel you are in England in the spring-in a little house in Devizes, say, or Bexhill-on-Sea. Your children have just been put to bed. You have finished reading a book on the life of Joseph Wright of Derby. There is a knock on the door. You start up. Your husband is away, and it is foggy outside. At the door is an old lover, someone who broke your heart, who is in England on business and has tracked you down.

Of course, the fact of the matter is that you live in a flat in New York. Your work is done at an oak drawing table, surrounded by pots of brushes and pens. In other people's houses your perspective widens. You contemplate the Martins' old Spode platter. You know the burn on their dining-room table -- the only flaw in its walnut surface -- is from Paul's cigar, placed there the night before Ben was born. These details feed the imagination.

Oh, domesticity! The wonder of dinner plates and cream pitchers. You know your friends by their ornaments. You want everything. If Mrs. A. has her mama's old jelly mold, you want one, too, and everything that goes with it -- the family, the tradition, the years of having jelly molded in it. We domestic sensualists live in a state of longing, no, matter how comfortable our own places are.

The Lone Pilgrim. Copyright © by Laurie Colwin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents

The Lone Pilgrim 3
The Boyish Lover 17
Sentimental Memory 33
A Girl Skating 49
An Old-Fashioned Story 59
Intimacy 79
Travel 91
Delia's Father 103
A Mythological Subject 117
Saint Anthony of the Desert 135
The Smile Beneath the Smile 151
The Achieve of, the Mastery of the Thing 165
Family Happiness 189
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2000

    I read it and wished it were my life...

    Laurie Colwin shoots the moon with this collection of short stories. You can't help but fall for her clearly written characters and their endearing habits. I own at least five copies of this book so that I can pass it along to friends who've never had the chance to sample her work. Grab yourself a mug of tea and get ready to smile.

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