"Well, God is a good man."
I like these words because they comfort me when I think of my departed friend Don Pillsbury. In my mind I repeat to myself, "Well, Don was a good man."
Closer friends, associates, or maybe even his biographers will eventually write about the many sides of Don: Business, the law, Oxford, Yale, education, Sotheby's, philanthropy, the Performing Arts, and so on. That's fine with me, as long as I get to comment on just one side of his life--his love of literature.
One night, while attending a Music Sacra concert at Carnegie Hall, I saw him by the front row,with a group of his friends. Since my wife, Mary Duffy, is a friend of many of the Musica Sacra volunteers, we were all together in one of the upper tiers.
During the intermission, he'd manage to come up to say hello and tell me how excited he was about Garcia Marquez's novel Love in the Time of Cholera. What caught his attention was not the lover --and suffering torch bearer Florentino Ariza-- but Fermina Daza, the object of Florentino's affections. "What a character!" he exclaimed.
On many occasions, If it wasn't Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Allan Poe, Jane Austen, or Nabokov, it was Faulkner or Hemingway, but never Henry James, whom we ended up discussing. Don once described Henry James as a soporific writer. And I totally agree, for never once have I been able to finish one of Henry James' novels.
Well, Don was a good man--a well read man.
One balmy New York City-day, as we attended a function (on a Park Avenue rooftop), speeches gone with the wind, hors d'oeuvres devoured, and just wine and spirits flowing, Don and a few others deconstructed the originality --or lack of it-- of American literature. Don sustained that Fitzgerald borrowed the theme of the The Great Gatsby from Petronius' Trimalchio (for the raucous parties), and the idea of falling in love while poor and dreaming of making it big as recovering a lost love from Wuthering Heights.
Well, Don was a good man--a man of reason, kind-hearted, and humble. As Nick Carraway opens his narration of Gatsby, he tells us about his father's advice:
"Whenever you feel like critizicing anyone," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
Though Don was born to advantage, humility always guided his acts.
Not only did he lived a decent and virtuous life, he enjoyed it! And I'm happy that he shared --for about twenty years-- some of that enjoyment with me, a poor humble boy from the Andes.