Bill McNeill wrote my story

It was startling when Bill (William H.) McNeill said he wanted to write my life story, interviewing me with surgical precision. This was a dramatic experience for both of us because of a strange intersection in our lives that took place years before we met. Having a famous historian (and biographer) examine my life was alarming, but ultimately transformative. The conversations brought us closer, and it was a relief to talk about my long-ago affair with Kirkpatrick Sale, since Bill had had his own encounter with the man. And seeing [...]

March 18th, 2024|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|

The only thing I like about driving

I drive very little, as little as I can, but I have discovered one great thing about time behind a wheel: listening to audio books. I have always said I preferred to read on the page, and audio books seemed slow. The recent discovery is that classic books I've read before are fresh and different when read aloud. Pride & Prejudice was one, and I'm now listening to The Mill on the Floss and realizing just how funny George Eliot is. I did not grasp her humor before, while now I find myself [...]

January 27th, 2024|Categories: karenchristenze-blog|

Book clubs & third places

I've been asked if book clubs can be third places. Not exactly, but there is a connection worth exploring. I was delighted to hear that a book club in Indiana (the state where I was born, making me a Hoosier, I guess) will be discussing The Great Good Place next month. Their order of 20 copies encouraged me to think about discussion questions, and we'll soon have materials for book clubs. I hope to get some feedback, too, for the new edition.

January 27th, 2024|Categories: karenchristenze-blog, Third Places|

Dinner with Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger was looking into my eyes as he talked about AI and the future of US-China relations. I had no choice: I nodded thoughtfully and kept my gaze on him, ignoring my salad. He was talking directly across the table to me for a simple reason: he couldn't see anyone else. The room was dim, and the dining table was crowded with flower arrangements. He needed an audience, and I was it. I confess: I practiced the kind of vivacious listening that women through the ages have done. [...]

December 14th, 2023|Categories: Karen's Letter|

Telling Our Stories, Writing Our Lives

Originally published as a Berkshire Publishing newsletter in November 2016. It continues to be relevant, especially as I discover more examples of Valerie (Mrs. T. S.) Eliot's storytelling. Should we call it fabrication, mythmaking, or just plain lying?  Here's the latest example, from Alan Bennett's memoir Keeping On Keeping On: I only met her a couple of times, though was persuaded to attend her funeral if only because, through her family coming to our shop, I had known her longest—if in some respects least. She used to claim that she [...]

September 30th, 2023|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , , , |

What do Valerie Eliot’s clothes tell us?

I hadn’t realized how useful clothes can be in understanding a life until I talked to Sarah Byrd, a fashion historian in New York. This post was written soon after that meeting in April 2019. I'm republishing it now after having discussed the subject with several people at the International T. S. Eliot Society's annual meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2023. We got into the subject of TSE's clothing choices, too, and how he worked so hard to dress like an English gentleman. Sarah Byrd's contention is that fashion is [...]

September 28th, 2023|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , , |