An exquisite painter, intellectual, social activist and articulate lesbian feminist, Mary Meigs did not begin her writing career until age sixty. While her books are grounded in the particulars of her personal relationships, they are difficult to categorize. So luminous are they with her painter’s recognition of the dance of shades and hues of context, so unsparingly lucid is her intellect of analytical and mindful thought, so unsentimental and profoundly self-aware is her heart, that her books read like the most exquisitely crafted fiction a life embraced to the fullest, and with eyes wide open, can become in its written record.
Mary Meigs suffered a stroke in 1999. Undaunted and irrepressible, Meigs embraced her fate with both a penetrating curiosity and an utterly undiminished will to create. New, discrete forms of writing emerged: an incisively contemplative journal; a beautifully witty, illustrated fax correspondence between her cat Mike and Marie-Claire Blais’s cat Mouser; and a fascinating series of collaborative “free writing” sketches, beginning with a line or phrase, usually from a poem, on which the writer elaborated without moving pen from paper.
Lise Weil has constructed a celebratory gathering of these magical pieces in Beyond Recall, Meigs’s paean to the indomitable human spirit and its triumph over the infirmities and obstacles old age imposes on the human condition.
About the authors
Born in Philadelphia, writer and painter Mary Meigs wrote her first novel, Lily Briscoe: A Self-Portrait, at the age of 60. For the next two decades, Meigs chronicled her extraordinary life as a writer, a painter, an actress, a social activist and a lesbian feminist. In 1988, Meigs played herself in the critically acclaimed film The Company of Strangers (U.S. release title: Strangers in Good Company; French title: Le Fabuleux gang des sept ), about eight women on a bus tour who are stranded in isolated countryside when the bus breaks down. In the Company of Strangers (1991) followed, a fascinating work documenting her experience during the production of the film. Mary Meigs died in 2002 at the age of 85, shortly before the completion of Beyond Recall.
Lise Weil is an award-winning editor and translator. Her essays and literary nonfiction have been published widely in Canada and the U.S. She is founding editor of Dark Matter: Women Witnessing and teaches in the Goddard Graduate Institute. Her short fiction, essays, reviews, literary nonfiction, and translations have been published widely in journals in both Canada and the U.S. Her collection of Mary Meigs’ writings on aging, Beyond Recall (2005), was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award in biography in 2006. Born in Chicago, she moved to Montreal in 1990. These many years later, she is still in love with this city—for its mix of cultures and languages, its café life, its year-round festivals, and its proximity to wilderness. She spends summers in a cabin in the woods north of the city where she hosts annual retreats for women writers centred around dreamwork.
- Short-listed, Lambda Literary Award
“Beyond Recall … is a beautiful, whimsical and detailed description of the last two years of Meigs’ life. It also documents a woman’s life after 80—a virtually unexplored territory. What sticks in Meigs’ mind as chronicled here is both visual and visceral.”
“While [Mary Meigs’s] body is palpably slowing down, her mind is very much alive, as evinced in her wit … She is capable of word games and of creating a humorous dialogue between her fallible mind and index finger. However, her real strengths are virtues of drama, colour (a painter’s mother tongue), and passion that are distilled in succinct images. Creativity trumps gerontology in her case.”
—Globe and Mail