Bookslut founder and editor Crispin’s account of how she set off in search of meaning by following in the footsteps of dead writers, artists, and composers.
After confiding suicidal impulses to a friend and then being confronted with a possible trip to a psychiatric hospital, the author knew she had to act. So she packed her suitcases and left for Europe to be among the “wandering souls who were willing to scrape their lives clean and start again elsewhere.” With mordant wit and a dash of bravado, Crispin interweaves the story of her journey to commune with the spirits of men and women who shared her existential crises with autobiographical details and astute critical insights. In Berlin, she meditated on the despair that sent William James fleeing from the United States while contemplating her own sense of personal failure. In Trieste, she reflected on the life of James Joyce’s wife, Nora Barnacle, a woman who loved a man she could not count on. In the south of France, Crispin mused on the life and work of another kindred spirit, Margaret Anderson, a fellow Midwesterner who founded and co-edited the Little Review, one of the most influential avant-garde literary magazines of the early 20th century. After years of struggle, her work would all be destroyed in a court battle over her serialization of Ulysses, a book deemed too obscene for American readers. Constantly questioning the choices of her “guides” and finding no easy answers to her own concerns about life and love, Crispin continued to travel and “chase discomfort.” Yet by the time she reached the last destination in the book, the Greek island of Zakynthos, she could embrace the randomness of a life journey that was now literally lived at the flip of a coin. Through moments of ennui, drunkenness, and intense joy, Crispin had unexpectedly discovered meaning in the ever renewing possibilities of a life lived in fluidity.
An eloquently thought-provoking memoir.