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The Merry Recluse: A Life in Essays [Paperback]

Caroline Knapp
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 20 2005
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 lensis 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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From Booklist

When she died in 2001 at the age of 42, Knapp was just hitting her stride as a journalist, as a writer, as a woman. She would also have added the titles "friend," "daughter," and "ex-addict" to the list. This posthumous collection of essays once published in contemporary magazines and columns originally written for staid newspapers reveals the arc of her professional career and exposes a maturation process that came at great personal cost. Unafraid to tackle subjects both universal and individual, public and private, Knapp expressed her views with a unique outlook that, paradoxically, resonated with legions of loyal readers who recognized some part of themselves in her. Whether she was writing about her own alcohol addiction and anorexia, or the death of her parents and life's daily frustrations, Knapp's talent lay in her utter guilelessness, her open accessibility, and her disarming ability to bare it all. The loss of her is enormous, and her last words are to be treasured. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"Most memorable...are [Knapp's] forthright, unsentimental examinations of her life as a woman living alone and working alone... An intelligent voice that spoke with grace, honesty, and humor."

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RIGHT BEFORE MY twin sister and I were born, the doctor listened for heartbeats and only heard one. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Reminder of a Talented Writer... May 8 2004
Imagine having thought that a cherished friend was lost to you forever, and then to have her return unexpectedly for a brief time, knowing this is to be her last visit ever. For anyone who loved Caroline Knapp's writing, and mourned her premature death just two years ago, this book filled with her essays is just such a lovely gift. As with much of her other work, including "Drinking, A Love Story", and "Pack of Two", she had an amazing talent for intricately expressing her thoughts in an unusually accessible manner. While most of her essays focus on "women's issues", her reflections and sentiments are undoubtedly universal. Thank you to her editor, Sandra Shea, for giving us another chance to pull up a chair and share some intimate moments with this extraordinary writer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Book! June 12 2004
By Lunimar
I love Caroline Knapp. I have read all of her books, including Drinking: A Love Story, despite not having any problems with alcohol.
These essays are insightful, poignant, and they wonderfully express emotions that everyone can connect with. Caroline Knapp wrote with humor and seemed to invest her whole soul into all of her writing.
I disagree with the reviewer who said that some of the lighter essays were out of place, each essay provided a broader look of the author and allowed me the connection of humor as well as other connecting on more serious levels.
I especially liked Lucille vs Stumpy, Letter to Zoe and Speaking out for shyness.
I believe that anyone who enjoys good writing, reflective thinking and has a sense of humor will enjoy these essays.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essays for Intelligent Women June 5 2004
By A Customer
The Merry Recluse shows Caroline Knapp at her best: writing about the highs and lows of addiction, humans bonding with dogs, the difficulties of being shy and the mixed blessings of time spent alone. Some of the essays are simply wonderful, such as "On Being a Twin," "My Canine, Myself" and "Speaking Out for Shyness." The quality of the book suffers from the inclusion of some her lighter lesser pieces that seem knocked off to fill a deadline for her column in the Boston Phoenix. The book would have been better if they'd been left out.
Knapp is best when she's exploring her own insecurities and losses. I wish she was still around to articulate what it's like to be a sensitive flawed woman trying to live an intelligent life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreakingly educational June 30 2004
By A Customer
(...)Knapp's willingness to thoroughly examine herself and her demons-- drinking, anorexia-- has provided many of us with a precious resource and lifeline in dealing with our own troubles. Her insights on her relationship with her parents, and her close bond to her dog, provide the reader with thoughtful reflections on the nature of human connections.
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