Gail Caldwell, former Chief Book Critic of the Boston Globe, writes about the writer and Phoenix Columnist Caroline Knapp “Let’s Take The Long Way Home”-A Memoir of Friendship
The felicitous confluence of bonds that brought two well-known local writers –Gail Caldwell and Caroline Knapp- into such deep friendship included: being-single, rowing in sculls on The Charles, sobriety, Caldwell becoming so earlier; Knapp achieving it later, and famously. All that and their respective literary sensibilities. And though childless, they were both passionately dogfull; Gail had, Clementine, Caroline’s was Lucille. Endlessly walking their dogs, rowing, and talking, they were also both inward sorts: Caroline wore “her reserve like silken armor.”
One day Caroline said out loud “I’m the merry recluse! And Gail is the cheerful depressive.” These paradoxical styles complemented each other well, and the two soulmates found a connection different from romantic love. Friendship is a language, and they spoke theirs on
leisurely, life-inquiring strolls around Fresh Pond. But then along came that cloud in the sky to interrupt it all: cancer, rapid decline, death. An ongoing battle had been about Caroline’s smoking, and here was its extreme punishment. But her fading afforded a new intimacy, and we get the gracefulness of Caldwell’s musings about the painfully odd emptiness of losing a best friend. And then this: Clementine gets attacked by a pitbull, and we see that loss has other zingers up its sleeve.
From page 123:
“Once she referred to the core ambiguities of life as “the dark side of joy,” and here, these days, has been the reverse: a happy limbo in which I have brought her along on the journey. The writer’s self-imposed fugue state. She has been thoroughly alive in the meadows and woods with the dogs, through each rowing lesson and argument and carefree phone call. Her death these days is somewhere down the hall, behind a closed but unlocked door. But for now she is river-tan and laughing, and pretty soon the phone will ring and one of us will say What are you doing”? and it will all begin again.”