Once upon a time, a little girl was born to a liberal, educated family who lived in Eastern Massachusetts. This little girl was quiet and shy, and personalized her parents’ vaguely uneasy marriage as her fault. She was a perfectionist, and graduated magna cum laude from college. Her life was not easy. Starving herself was her first learned coping skill, drinking her second. She spent most of her late teens and early twenties binging and restricting; her eating disorder isolated her. However, this lady had a talent: she could write. She wrote for the Boston Phoenix when it was in its Indie hayday. She wrote a column about being a single woman – she was Boston’s version of Sex and the City’s Carrie. Her strength was her painful honesty – as one coworker wrote, “Reserved in person, she was ruthlessly self-revelatory at the keyboard”.
This is not me; this is Caroline Knapp. But you can see why I identify.
Caroline went on to write four books that made her famous: Alice K’s Guide To Life, Drinking: A Love Story, Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs, and Appetites.
In 2002, Caroline died of complications from lung cancer. She was 42 years old and had just married her longtime companion, Mark Morelli (the photographer who took this entry’s image).
I have read her books, and have read the ensuing criticism that has arisen from fellow recovered eating disordered memoir-writers. I think this criticism is a shame, for Caroline never pretended or claimed to own all the knowledge on the causes or remedies for eating disorders. She was a woman who was simply using her story as a means of making some sense in the world, and as a means of exposing the truth that some of us are so painfully afraid to approach.
I highly encourage you to pick up any of her books; Caroline had a way of twisting and shaping difficult concepts into beautiful, poignant strokes of the keyboard.
And if she were alive today, I would have taken her out for a very long coffee date.
(Read one of Caroline’s articles at http://www.salon.com/life/feature/1998/07/cov_27feature.html).