You can have your Bloomsbury group, your Moveable Feast in Paris, your Thoreau camping out in Emerson's backyard. The meeting of the minds I'm always, always nostalgic for is when George W. S. Trow, Jamaica Kincaid, and Ian Frazier became friends in the pay of the New Yorker in the middle of the 1970s. Trow was a little bit older, a Harvard man and a sort-of scion of Old New York. Frazier was from Harvard, too, but really from Ohio, and Kincaid was from Antigua and saw herself as a writer but was seen by everybody else as a character.
Trow showed them around the city and for much of the '70s they wrote unsigned Talk of the Town pieces about daytime disco dancing and publicity luncheons and meetings of fashion executives. And then in the next decade or so they stepped out under their own names and wrote some of the best books of the age: Kincaid's short novels, beginning with Annie John; Frazier's travelogue tour-de-force, Great Plains; and, best or at least weirdest of all, Trow's cryptic lamentation about television culture, Within the Context of No Context.
George Trow died last month in Naples, Italy, at the age of 63. He had for a number of years been wandering and unhappy and hard to find (I tried), but he did write a wonderful sequel of sorts to Within the Context called My Pilgrim's Progress, a deeply personal, aristocratic account of newspapers and Dwight Eisenhower that he apparently got down on paper only by talking into a tape recorder. He would have been the first to tell you that he knew a lot that no one else did, and that a lot of context was lost with his death.