The Merry Recluse: A Life in Essays

Overview


From the best-selling author of Drinking: A Love Story, and Appetites: Why Women Want comes this unforgettable collection spanning fifteen years of observations on modern culture and women's lives. Caroline Knapp's readers are known not just for their number, but for their intense connection to her work. Knapp connected so well in part because of the intense focus she brought to her subjects. Now, with The Merry Recluse: A Life in Essays, Knapp shows us that her vision through a wider lens is as brilliant as ...
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Overview


From the best-selling author of Drinking: A Love Story, and Appetites: Why Women Want comes this unforgettable collection spanning fifteen years of observations on modern culture and women's lives. Caroline Knapp's readers are known not just for their number, but for their intense connection to her work. Knapp connected so well in part because of the intense focus she brought to her subjects. Now, with The Merry Recluse: A Life in Essays, Knapp shows us that her vision through a wider lens is as brilliant as through a narrow one. These essays paint the fullest picture of this wonderful writer that we've yet seen, but they are also a full portrait of a writing life, showing how the same themes can engage--and expand--a writer over a lifetime. Knapp, who died in 2002, was considered one of the country's more intelligent and graceful voices in memoirs. This collection also shows her to be a witty, provocative observer of the world around her.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
At a particular point in time, in "a magical, transformative moment," Knapp (Drinking: A Love Story) describes herself as "the merry recluse" and realizes she is "happy and alone." Arranged thematically, this collection of poignant essays, written over a 15-year period, deals with grief and sobriety, friendship and love, addictions, shyness, and loneliness. From the potent images of "Life Without Anesthesia" (giving up an addiction) to the artful whimsy of "From Ares to Ridicules Greek Gods for Modern Times" (creating contemporary gods to combat confusion and despair), Knapp captures elements of the human condition and reflects on them. Her description of her battle with anorexia nervosa is vivid and poignant: "At a time when I felt essentially worthless, starving was the one thing I could say I was good at." Her commentary on acquiring a dog is filled with wry humor: "You notice at this point that you have begun to think like a dog." Her declaration that "Life is hard, growth is painful, joy can be elusive" is an eloquent testimonial to her journey from alcoholism to sobriety. Knapp's writing is powerful and compelling throughout. While her worldview is familiar, her representation of it is striking. Her untimely death at the age of 43 is a cause for regret. Recommended for all public and academic libraries. Kathryn R. Bartelt, Univ. of Evansville Libs., IN Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Brief essays exploring universal themes-friendship, loneliness, and love-and observations on contemporary life, from Barbie dolls and Linda Tripp to computer solitaire. These columns by the late Knapp, who wrote for Boston Phoenix, and other publications, span her career from the '80s until her death in 2002, at age 42. Here, they're grouped by theme into five parts: "Without," on grief, loss, and sobriety; "With," on friendship, family, and love; "Out There," on the state of the world; "In Here," on her inner world; and "The Merry Recluse," on solitude, shyness, and loneliness. The title is taken from a piece on being single that Knapp wrote for Slate in 1998, but little merriment appears in the opening pieces. In these she deals with the deaths of her parents and her recovery from anorexia and alcoholism, subjects she explored in greater depth in Appetites (2003) and Drinking (1996). Knapp's wit emerges in part two when she writes about her dog, Lucille, and engages in a debate with columnist Ron Rosenbaum on the relative value of dogs and cats. It blossoms in parts three and four, where she offers tart and original ideas on how corporate America could improve employee morale (e.g., on-site laundries) and how science could lighten the lot of females (e.g., the five-minute menstrual cycle), invents some new gods for the '90s (e.g., Testicles-rhymes with Hercules-the god of male chauvinist pigs), and expands the concept of nicotine-patch technology to other human needs (e.g., a healing chicken-soup patch). Most memorable, however, are her forthright, unsentimental examinations of her life as a woman living alone and working alone that beautifully elucidate the pleasures of solitude andthe pain of isolation. An intelligent voice that spoke with grace, honesty, and humor.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582433141
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 5/9/2005
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 383,429
  • Product dimensions: 5.04 (w) x 7.82 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Caroline Knapp lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and died in May 2002 at the age of forty-two.
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Table of Contents

Introduction
On being a twin 3
The cord that binds 8
Breaking away 12
Girl crushes 16
When you just want to be loved 24
Confessions of a control freak 30
Letter to Zoe 35
Grace notes 39
How to have a dog's life 45
Lucille versus Stumpy 50
My canine, myself 54
Dog group 58
No dogs allowed 62
Best of breed : the mix 66
The grace period 71
Grief stages 74
Mid-mourning 77
A mother's work 80
Detail work 85
Grieving lessons 89
Clearing up 93
Food as enemy 97
Getting better 110
On loneliness 114
Lessons in loss 117
Living without alcohol 121
A letter to my father 125
Acamprosate 133
The problem with moderation 136
Life without anesthesia 141
An open letter to corporate America 151
Twelve steps down 155
From Ares to Ridicules 159
Beyond bad hair 163
Notes on Dave 167
What women really need from science 171
He says, she says 175
Dicking around 179
Death to niceness 182
Harassment 101 185
Patchwork 189
Longing to be Italian 193
Why we keep stuff 195
Teddy bear II 199
Nesting fever 203
Sloblessness 207
Notes on nesting 211
Overload, post 9/11 215
Longing for Normalcy 221
Endless (and endless) summer 225
Coming home 229
Nothing to wear 233
Exercising options 237
I hate money 241
Satan deals the cards 245
Transfer station 249
The rage cage 253
The feminine critique 257
Barbie does death 261
Biceps changed my life 265
Time alone 271
Speaking out for shyness 278
The merry recluse 286
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