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Daniel Mendelsohn and Mary Renault

A moment of bliss this morning – yours truly, weeping under the palm trees. The weather has turned sunny and hot with a bit of cloud – perfect. I went for a walk/jogette on the beach – stopping, as always, to hunt for a few shells – then for a swim – my morning routine in paradise. And then sat by the water reading in the latest “New Yorker” an article by Daniel Mendelsohn about the influence on him in his youth of the Greek novels of Mary Renault. He wrote to her, and she wrote back; they corresponded for decades.

The story is about his coming-to-terms with his homosexuality, which her novels helped him name and accept. Long after her death, a friend of hers wrote to him, and now new friendships have developed.

It made me cry not just because it’s a haunting memoir, beautifully written, but because I had just watched on YouTube a long and recent David Frost interview with Paul McCartney, one of the heroes of my own youth. I’d marvelled once again that the man I chose in February 1964 is in fact such a nice guy – incredibly talented and hard-working, but also honest and open, with a sense of humour. Paul didn’t influence me as a writer, as Renault did Mendelsohn, but as a girl, a woman, a person. He taught me how much I could love, and how faithfully. He taught me what music can mean.

Now to write that down. Again. Trying, again, to write that story down.

Several other notes from the deep south: yesterday I bought “Time” magazine for the first time in many years, because they chose Obama as their “Person of the Year.” A remarkably fair article inside, a genuinely respectful and optimistic analysis of his past and possible future. And the other night, listening to National Public Radio, imagine my surprise on hearing the opening music of Jian Ghomeshi’s show at 7. Yes, “Q” is on NPR, just as Jian tells us it is – so I can listen to my Toronto neighbour down here, as pelicans sail past the window.

I’m recuperating from these last months of stress and grief. It’s wonderful to be alone in the quiet, though of course I’m not – I have newspapers, books, Daniel Mendelsohn and Jon Stewart to keep me company, not to mention email, Skype and Facebook. (Did you see Jon last night on gun control? Incredibly forceful. I love you, Jon.) Just Skyped with Chris, back from Africa. Watched Fellini’s “Juliet of the Spirits” the other night, tender and moving. I’m eating Florida food – tangelos and giant red grapefruit and herring in cream sauce. Writing my speech for Mum’s memorial next week.

And beginning, at last, to get back to my own work.

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2 Responses to “Daniel Mendelsohn and Mary Renault”

  1. Juliet in Paris says:

    Bonjour Beth et bonne annee.

    Oh, how I envy you walking along a quiet sandy beach. (Atrocious weather here in Paris – cold and rain.) Reminds me of when my parents and I vacationed in neighbouring Longboat Key in the 1980s; we stayed in a rented beach house called Sea Twig. When you walk along the beach, are there dozens of sandpipers scurrying along the shoreline?

    I assume you're talking about the same Daniel Mendelsohn who wrote the fascinating memoir The Lost – A Search for Six of Six Million? Have you read it?

    bonnes vacances, bon retablissement, et mes meilleurs voeux pour l'annee 2013.

    Juliet

    Juliet

  2. beth says:

    Juliet, believe me, I am conscious of my great luck, to be walking in the sun in January. And I am concerned about the sandpipers – there have always been hordes of them, but this time, no. Maybe it's too early, and they're still – where would they be, otherwise? Yes, that Daniel Mendelsohn. Haven't read that book, but had taken his latest book of essays, "Waiting for the Barbarians," out of the library, and the memoir story about Mary Renault is beautiful.
    A joyful 2013 to you.
    b.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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