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In appreciation: Ann Arensberg

To her many devoted friends in Salisbury and the Tri-state area, in New York City and around the globe, Ann Arensberg, who died at age 84 at the Sharon Health Care Center last week was a uniquely enchanting person.

Winsome and brilliant, with an adorable snort of a laugh and irrepressible spirit, her speech peppered with endearments and mock exclamations, every visit had the air of a happy picnic.

After graduating from Radcliffe in 1958 and obtaining a Master’s Degree in French Literature from Harvard in 1962, Ann worked as an editor at The Viking Press from 1967-1974 editing such stellar writers in the world of theater as Eric Bentley and John Lahr and discovering fiction writers of the caliber of Laurie Colwin.

Her stories “Art History” and “Group Sex” were chosen for inclusion in O. Henry Award volumes in 1975 and 1980 respectively, and then Ann came to Alfred A. Knopf, where I was privileged to be her first editor, succeeded by Victoria Wilson when I migrated to The New Yorker in 1987.

As a novelist Ann announced her special powers with “Sister Wolf,” winner of the National Book Award for best first novel in 1981.

That triumph — the reception was amazing to her — was followed by “Group Sex,” a sophisticated romantic comedy (and marvelous expansion of her original story) demonstrating unusual novelistic range and verve; and “Incubus,” a main selection of the Book of the Month Club in 1999, set in a small town such as Salisbury. Ann had moved here in the 1980s with her equally dazzling husband, Richard Grossman, prodigious writer and editor famed for his early championing and editing of Ralph Nader, and later in life a cherished therapist here and in New York City.

In this stressful and isolating time, it’s been hard to see much of those we love. I’ll be forever grateful that I barged in on Ann (with the blessing of the place) a few days before Christmas, bearing an Irish woolen throw, Harney’s “Paris” tea, and a Mickey Mouse back scratcher—she loved all things Minnie and Mickey. She looked as pretty as ever, and it was heaven to be with her.

Alice Quinn


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