Friday, May 10, 2013

the last book I ever read (Remembering Denny by Calvin Trillin, excerpt four)

from Remembering Denny by Calvin Trillin:

At the reception, some of the Denny people seemed intent on demonstrating that there really had been a Denny Hansen, someone nothing at all like the man whose picture was on the stage. Peter Krough had a Sequoia High School yearbook he was showing around. There was one picture in it that he particularly wanted everyone to see. It had apparently been taken during rehearsals for some student production in Denny’s senior year. The to-die-for Marilyn Montgomery is sitting on top of an upright piano. Her legs are crossed and one hand is touching the back of her hair, in the pose sometimes associated with starlets of the forties. Denny is standing in front of the piano, with his hands in his pockets, smiling. Looking at the picture almost forty years after it was taken, I found it breathtaking. Of course, I was seeing it within a special context. It was a picture of Denny looking the way I remembered him, after all, and remembering Denny was the reason we were gathered. But I think just about anyone would have been struck by the health and the freshness and the exuberance and the optimism reflected in that picture. And the promise. In the fifties, such teenagers would have assumed that the world about to be faced was essentially without serious barriers. A high-school student like Denny Hansen seemed to have about him an aura of promise unlimited. Before the reception ended, I happened to fall into conversation with an SAIS doctoral student named Nancy Mitchell, who was there partly because she was a friend of Jim Robinson, Denny’s research assistant. She had been saddened by the talk of Roger Hansen’s early glories as Denny. “The way I see promise is that you have a knapsack, and all the time you’re growing up they keep stuffing promise into the knapsack,” she said. “Pretty soon, it’s just too heavy to carry. You have to unpack.”

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