Many years ago, my friend Aidan Donnelley Rowley mentioned that she had an idea. It was to start a salon series of sorts, focused on bringing together smart, thoughtful women and featuring and supporting writers. I loved the idea, and I still do. Her Happier Hours have become a phenomenon, and I’ve been fortunate to attend several.
Imagine my delight, then, at hosting my own Happier Hour in honor of Aidan herself. It’s not a secret that I love her new book, The Ramblers. I was absolutely thrilled to gather a group of women to meet and talk with Aidan, about novels, about love, about creativity, about practice, about life itself.
It was particularly special to have my thirteen year old daughter join us, sitting on the floor by me (you can see her in the photograph above), listening to Aidan raptly, even asking a question. Later on, the conversation turned to topic of writing about ourselves and others and about walking the line between disclosure and privacy. Someone asked me how I handle this, and I looked straight at Grace, and answered truthfully that I wonder about it all the time, that I write about my children less and less, and that there’s not one thing I’ve shared on this blog I’d be uncomfortable with either child reading (and they have, much of it).
I learned some new things about The Ramblers on Wednesday night, but more than anything I watched the faces of people I know and those I don’t (I was happy that some people who know Aidan from the ether came to the event, not knowing anyone before they did) as they listened to my friend talk.
One thing I love about Aidan’s Happier Hours is her very explicit goal of supporting writers by buying books. I was happy that we sold many books at my house (and thank you to Porter Square Books, my favorite independent bookseller, for helping in that effort). I am a devout library fan, but I also buy books, I assure you. I preorder books I’m really excited about (most recently, Annie Dillard’s The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New) and hope you do too.
Aidan and our mutual, adored agent Brettne Bloom both slept over at our house. The late night sitting around the kitchen, laughing about videos, talking about politics, and catching up on matters huge and tiny was one of my favorite parts of the event. Aidan and I share a deep interest in and commitment to the topic of female friendship in adulthood (most recently we discussed the fascinating piece in the New York Times What Women Find in Friends That They May Not Get From Love). Having Aidan and Brettne at my house, in my kitchen, was like watching a subject that means a tremendous amount to me come to life. I’ve written a lot about the friends I love most, whom I cherish beyond words (and one of them was in attendance on Wednesday night) – the native speakers to whom Ann Patchett refers in Truth & Beauty– and I’m fortunate to count both Brettne and Aidan in that group.
As I said on Wednesday night last week, Aidan’s beautiful book, The Ramblers, calls to mind over and over again one of my favorite quotes, by Tolkien: not all those who wander are lost. Having Aidan and Brettne here was a reminder both that wandering can be a rich and interesting way through life and that one of our most important decisions is who we amble beside.
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