A Tribute and Introduction To Allie Baker’s Last Interview, Written By Allen Carney
Wendy Simpson, a.k.a. Allie Baker, as she was widely and popularly known, was a writer, traveler, mother, wife, adventurer, lover, appreciator, friend – in the greatest sense of the word – and an inspiration. She was all those things in no particular order, and much much more (funny, talented and creative, etcetera and etcetera).
She set out with her husband, Rich, and sons Andy and Matt, on travel and adventure. Whatever parts of that life were new to her, she was uninhibitedly passionate about it and the people she met. As a writer she was intrigued by Hemingway. As a writer intrigued by Hemingway she became intrigued by Spain. The intrigue became a lifestyle and the Simpsons moved to many places but eventually to Spain and traveled there. Somewhere in that timeline Allie began to expand other people’s horizons. As many of us have, she expanded her horizons via the internet. The Hemingway Blog came alive, a study of the great writer with unrevealed or barely discerned corners of his life. Interviews with biographers, academicians, friends, relatives, a former wife, and many “others.” She participated in Hemingway conferences, met many people, and contributed in a significant fashion to the body of works about someone’s whose legendary fame and accomplishments as a writer had a significant impact of literature in the English language. A controversial man, if only because fame invites controversy, and Ernest Hemingway courted fame.
One could stop there, but life is much more complicated, richer, very generous, and too often tragic. Allie, in her pursuits of family, travel, literature, new relationships in unfolding horizons was suddenly stricken and confronted by Eternity. She was given two months to live. You can only contemplate your own personal reaction to facing the imminent presence of the demon Death. Can you ever be ready? Most of us, perhaps all of us, have witnessed others confront it, and some of us have had the misfortune, or perhaps the triumph of facing it.
Hemingway spent part of his youth and most of his adult life observing it, courting it, and contemplating it. In the end he chose to meet it.
Allie chose to live life fully, with enthusiasm, with appreciation, finesse, infinite courage and passion for living. Far beyond two months, she allowed us into and led us into her new adventures. There are examples, of course, but few have planted their feet so elegantly to meet the charging demon with such gracefulness, and delicacy, with a joy for living life richly and fully to the end.
Allie inspired everyone who came to know her. Those of us who got to know her strength and enormous courage, but never got to be with her face to face, to sit down at a table with her, and Rich, Andy and Matt, share a meal, and drink bottles of tinto, talk literature deep into the night, recite poetry, sing drunkenly, revert to brandy with anis until sunrise, wish we had, and some of us can look forward – not too soon, hopefully a long time from now – to the time when we can.
Allie plumbed the depths of personal experience. Her interviews vividly portrayed her curiosity and passion for life, and particularly her passion for Spain.
Her final interview is an illustration. As much as it is an interview of Larry Belcher, it is all about the impact that Allie had, the beauty of her curiosity, passion, and ability to draw out people.Allen Carney Villeraze, France 14 May 2016