Familiar spirits: a memoir of James Merrill and David Jackson

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Viking, Mar 29, 2001 - Biography & Autobiography - 181 pages
12 Reviews
Alison Lurie is known for the sophisticated satire and Pulitzer-winning prose of her novels and stories. In Familiar Spirits, she lovingly evokes two true-life intimates who are now lost to her. In her signature mix of comedy and analysis Lurie recalls Merrill and his longtime partner, David Jackson and their lives together in New York, Athens, Stonington, Connecticut, and Key West.Familiar Spirits reveals both the worldly and other worldly sources of what Merrill called his "chronicles of love and loss". Merrill was known for the autobiographical element in his work and here, we are introduced to the over thirty years of Ouija board sessions that brought gods and ghosts into his and David Jackson's lives, and also into Merill's brilliant book length poem, The Changing Light at Sandover. Lurie suggests that Jackson's contribution to this work was so great that he might, in a sense, be recognized as Merrill's coauthor. Her account of Merrill and Jackson's long and inspired relationship with the supernatural and its tragic end will not only surprise many readers, but stand as a poignant memorial to her lost friends.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - dmsteyn - LibraryThing

This is an excellently written, at times horribly unfair memoir of James Merrill and David Jackson by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Foreign Affairs. Embarrasingly, I admit to never having heard ... Read full review

Review: Familiar Spirits: A Memoir of James Merrill and David Jackson

User Review  - Leftjab - Goodreads

Engrossing memoir, though I was probably looking for a more straight forward biography of Merrill. Fast-paced and never less than interesting, could have been twice as long. Ends with a series of ... Read full review



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About the author (2001)

Alison Lurie, 1926 - Novelist Alison Lurie was born September 3, 1926 in Chicago, Illinois to Harry and Bernice Stewart Lurie. Her father was a Latvian-born teacher, scholar and socialist who founded the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds. She received an A.B. from Radcliffe College in 1947. Lurie was married to Jonathan Bishop for 37 years and had three sons, and then married Edward Hower, a novelist and professor. After finishing college, Lurie worked as an editorial assistant for Oxford University Press in New York, wanting to make a living as a writer. After years of receiving rejection slips, she devoted herself to raising her children. Lurie had taught at Cornell University since 1968, becoming a full professor in 1976 specializing in folklore and children's literature. Lurie's first novel was "Love and Friendship" (1962) and its characters were modeled on friends and colleagues. Afterwards, she published "The Nowhere City" (1965), "Imaginary Friends" (1967), "The War Between the Tates" (1974), which tells of the collapse of a perfect marriage between a professor and his wife, "Only Children" (1979), and "The Truth About Lorin Jones" (1988). "Foreign Affairs" (1984) won the Pulitzer Prize and tells the story of two academics in England that learn more about love than scholarship.

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