Alison Lurie, the renowned novelist and essayist, has died in Connecticut after a period of declining health. She was 95.
After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her early 20s, Ms. Lurie wrote one of her classic books while in a hospital bed.
In an essay titled “How to Live with MS,” Ms. Lurie described her struggle with the disease, and with therapy, medication and a doctor’s advice. She also acknowledged finding it difficult to write, even though she had “not the slightest doubt” that she should. The piece was originally published in The New Yorker in 1968, but may not have left a lasting impression in the authors’ world.
But Ms. Lurie, who died on Dec. 2, had a career that was varied and multifaceted. One of her pieces appeared in the New Yorker in 1996, and in it, she described a poetry workshop that she had attended at the University of Iowa. On the topic of language, she wrote: “The catch-all for rhymes and mordant turns of phrase was poetry. For words you could make up, count-off and think-out ‘breathers,’ imagery, theme, hope.”
She would become known for her role as an essayist, and for her last book, “Fallow,” which won the Lambda Literary Award in 2011. She first became famous for her fiction, for which she was described by The New York Times’A.O. Scott as “truly modest, introspective, humorless, with a gravitas that belies her years.”
Her work spanned almost a half-century. Her first novel, “Some Problems,” was published in 1949, three years after she graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor’s degree in English. Her best-known work was “In Little Gidding,” an adaptation of the poem by Virgil, which she wrote at night while working as a ballet dancer. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1963.
Her last novel, “Fallow,” was published in 2011. She was diagnosed with dementia in 2010.
According to the author’s close friend Joan Shigekawa, Ms. Lurie died on Sunday at her home in Vernon, Conn. Ms. Shigekawa said that Ms. Lurie had been suffering from Lewy body dementia for about a year, and that there was no specific cause of death. A memorial service is scheduled for Dec. 6 at Dartmouth College, where Ms. Lurie was a founding member of the journalism faculty.
In early November, Ms. Lurie had been a lecturer at the New York Public Library in the Women’s History Series. The speaker line-up for the session included Ms. Shigekawa, New York Times writer Jenni Avins, and director Nancy Meyers.
For a brief time, Ms. Lurie was living in a luxury apartment overlooking the Hudson River in New York. That month, she was also going to be on Oprah Winfrey’s new talk show, “Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations.”
But Ms. Shigekawa said that Ms. Lurie, who was diagnosed with MS in the 1960s, had been unable to leave her home, and the turn of events had been a “bizarre week.”
Alison Lurie, the mother of Eric Lurie, the Yale literary historian, also was the widow of the novelist Tom Doyle, who died in 1991.