One of the Upstart Crow fold passed away early yesterday morning, and we here are still reeling and red-eyed from the news. Our love and support go out to her husband, Barrett, and to Bridget’s family and friends, who are legion.
As one should have expected about someone dubbed the World’s Fastest Librarian, Bridget Zinn departed the scene earlier and faster than anyone could have ever imagined. And the world is a poorer, dimmer, duller place for her absence. We will miss her. I will miss her.
[Below, a video’d thank you she’d made after an auction to raise money for her fight against cancer. It is how I always see her in my mind’s eye.]
At times like these, one can’t help but realize how shabbily inadequate words are when it comes to grief. Sad just doesn’t cut it. No how no way. Doesn’t come anywhere near to capturing the weighty emptiness we feel. And to amp things up with adverbs—well, that sort of lousy writing she wouldn’t stand for.
Bridget was a friend as well as a client, but when I think of her, what comes to mind still is my first read of her debut novel, Poison. It is a bright, funny, sweet wonder of a book, and I’d printed out the manuscript and taken it with me home from the office because I just couldn’t stop reading. I startled my fellow subway passengers by barking out laughter every few minutes. You’ll get to read it one of these days—we later sold it at auction to Hyperion. The story is a fantasy about a girl fugitive who fancies herself tough-as-nails until she finds love, humility, and more through an unexpected partnership with a wee enchanted piglet named Rosie.
Like Bridget, her novel is warm, breezily witty, full of a large-hearted love for her characters and the world. And oh god, but she and it are funny. A giddy joy saturates every page of the manuscript—a joy, I realized, that came from Bridget herself.
When she was diagnosed with cancer, Bridget handled it with a courage that I found hard to fathom. How could she be so happy? So carefree? So effortlessly sweet and funny? She had an optimism about her, I learned, because that’s who she was. Even after the diagnosis, she was for the most part happy and an inspiration to us all on how to live. She and her longtime boyfriend, Barrett, got married, and they bought their dream house in Portland, the city they loved. (And where, when I’d visit, they’d take me to beautiful spots I’d have never found otherwise.) She’d sold her book and was hard at work on the sequel, as well as another novel about one of her favorite things in the world: Shoes. It’s a cliche, but Bridget was so full of zest and life that she made the cancer almost seem beside the point.
Which is why yesterday’s news was so devastating, so unexpected, so unjust. There was little enough in the world already to made it a worthwhile place; now there’s a whole lot less.
We have all been so fortunate to have Bridget in our lives and never understood that until this moment, even though what we’re dealing with now is the exact opposite of good fortune. It’s precisely the sort of meaningful contradiction that Bridget, whose novel is rife with ironic (and often amusing) twists of fate, would have appreciated.