Jan 232007
Authors: Ryan Speaker

This weekend, I had one of the most intimate, most emotionally moving experiences of my life. I felt romance and true, ever-lasting love. The words expressed, anecdotes shared, articles and letters quoted… my heart was pitter-pattering away. All because of a 78-page memoir entitled, “About Alice.”

This book may soon become my “greatest love story of all time,” with all due respect to the hit 1970 film “Love Story”; my apologies to Ryan O’Neal, Ali McGraw and anyone old enough to know that reference.

The current holder of the title lies in the French film “Love Me If You Dare.” Deeply in love and with some unfortunate circumstances in their lives, the protagonists bury themselves in cement so that the love they feel will never dwindle.

Clearly it is not an easy task to become my greatest love story, which speaks volumes about this book.

Calvin Trillin, long-time writer for the New Yorker, is the author of “About Alice.” The book pays respect to the memory of his wife, some five years after her death; he begins with their initial meeting at a party.

“(I)n romantic matters, even those who need to depend mainly on dumb luck are usually up to one or two deliberate moves.” Two decades later, Alice told him he was never so funny as he was that night.

“You mean I peaked in December of 1963?”

“I’m afraid so.”

He goes on to describe his attractive, Wellsley-educated wife. When she asked how people were doing, she was genuinely interested and wanted details. She would edit his articles and explain foreign films to him.

She never sat quietly during conversations and had no trouble being direct; after one of New York Governor George Pataki’s speeches, he returned to his table with Alice and Calvin; she turned to Governor Pataki and said, “That was one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard. Why in the world are you a Republican?”

One of the sweeter anecdotes is how Calvin always tried to impress her, even decades into their marriage. “I still knew that if I ever disappointed her in some fundamental way – if I ever caused her to conclude that, after all was said and done, she should have said no when… I asked her if we could have dinner sometime – I would have been devastated.”

In trying to impress her, he writes of his book dedications; one such dedication reads, “I wrote this for Alice. Actually, I wrote everything for Alice.”

He also writes of Alice’s lung cancer, and how in 2001 it was discovered that the radiation she received in 1976 had irreparably damaged her heart. Regardless, the treatment that killed her in 2001 had saved her in 1976, granting her a quarter-century reprieve.

Calvin concludes the book: “I know what Alice, the incorrigible and ridiculous optimist, would have said about a deal that allowed her to see her girls grow up: ‘Twenty-five years! I’m so lucky!’ I try to think of it in those terms, too. Some days I can and some days I can’t.”

The book, for me, is such a refreshing change from the behavior I regularly see and hear of on campus.

A girl in your economics class you’d like to “know” better? Find out if she really is fergalicious. See a guy at a club you’d like to be with? Be a promiscuous girl. Me? I think such behavior is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

Author Tom Wolfe accurately captured the phenomenon is his book “Hooking Up”: “In the year 2000, in the era of hooking up… ‘third base’ meant going all the way; and ‘home plate’ meant learning each other’s names.”

It all sounds a little cynical to me. I’m a pessimist about politics, religion, the war in Iraq… But when it comes to love, romance and other states of the heart, I am the most eternal of optimists.

Why anyone would give up the pursuit of a relationship like Calvin and Alice’s in favor of an ephemeral night of non-committal intercourse is beyond me; I am holding out for Alice.

Ryan Speaker is a senior history major. His column appears every Wednesday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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