Joan Weimer had spent three years researching the life of nineteenth-century novelist Constance Fenimore Woolson for a critical biography when a devastating back injury left her virtually immobile. Pain reshaped her research as she discovered more about Woolson's writing, family, and grief. The imaginative relationship she developed with Woolson—chronicled in this heart-felt book— helped Weimer to escape her physical disability as she wrestled with the question of how to redefine herself.
In this elegant, humorous, and brutally frank memoir, Weimer's discoveries—documentative and imaginative, historical and personal—reveal much about what motivates research, and what motivates healing.
Subversive, funny, and effortlessly droll, Jules Feiffer’s cartoons were all over New York in the 1960s and ’70s—featured in the Village Voice, but also cut out and pinned to bulletin boards in offices and on refrigerators at home. Feiffer describes himself as “lucking into the zeitgeist,” and there’s some truth to the sentiment; Feiffer’s brand of satire reflected Americans’ ambivalence about the Vietnam War, changing social mores, and much more.
Feiffer’s memoir, Backing into Forward, like his cartoons, is sharply perceptive with a distinctive bite of mordant humor. Beginning with his childhood in Brooklyn, Feiffer paints a picture of a troubled kid with an overbearing mother and a host of crippling anxieties. From there, he discusses his apprenticeship with his hero, Will Eisner, and his time serving in the military during the Korean War, which saw him both feigning a breakdown and penning a cartoon narrative called “Munro” that solidified his distinctive aesthetic as an artist. While Feiffer’s voice grounds the book, the sheer scope of his artistic accomplishment, from his cartoons turning up in the New Yorker, Playboy, and the Nation to his plays and film scripts, is remarkable and keeps the narrative bouncing along at a speedy clip. A compelling combination of a natural sense of humor and a ruthless dedication to authenticity, Backing into Forward is full of wit and verve, often moving but never sentimental.
“Jules Feiffer’s original and neurotic voice. . . . reinvented comics in the 1950s and made possible what’s now called the ‘graphic novel.’ His engaging new memoir is told in that same witty and perceptive New York cadence, mellowed and laced with wisdom. He’s an inspiration.”—Art Spiegelman
Agents or victims, liberated or oppressed, "bad girls" or "good girls." What do these labels mean and do they further or hinder women's progress? How are today's visions of female sexuality and power like or unlike those of the past? How do younger women define feminism? Isn't the personal still political?
Dismayed by the media's tendency to reduce the feminist enterprise to labels and superstars, Donna Perry and Nan Bauer Maglin decided to find out what a diverse group of feminists think about women, sex, and power in the nineties. The result is a provocative and varied collection of twenty-four essays by second- and third-wave feminists; artists and activists; professors and graduate students; professional journalists and just-published writers; mothers and daughters. By focusing on society's construction, containment, and exploitation of female sexuality, in particular, these essays offer fresh perspectives on women's agency or lack of it.
The contributors focus on the oversimplifications and false dichotomies in current discussions of female sexuality, as well as the privileged perspective and individualism that currently dominate the popularized feminist message. Individual writers--including Emma Amos, bell hooks, Ann Jones, Lisa Jones, Paula Kamen, Matuschka, Marge Piercy, Katha Pollitt, Anna Quindlen, Elayne Rapping, Lillian S. Robinson, and Ellen Willis--reexamine women's empowerment in the light of issues like AIDS, battering, acquaintance rape, narratives of childhood sexual abuse, and pornography. Several draw political conclusions from their personal struggles, while others read stories and texts--from history, the art world, the media, popular culture, and social science research--in new and controversial ways.
A charming, humorous, and colorful coming-of-age memoir
Bay Boy is a collection of essays by award-winning young adult author Watt Key, chronicling his boyhood in Point Clear, Alabama. During his childhood, Point Clear was not the tony enclave of today with its spas, art galleries, and multimillion dollar waterfront properties. Rather, it was a sleepy resort community, practically deserted in the winter, with a considerable population of working-class residents.
As Key notes in his introduction, “Life in Point Clear is really about being outside. . . . I have never found a place so perfectly suited to exercise a young boy’s imagination.” Key and his brother filled their days collecting driftwood to make forts, scooting around the bay in a sturdy Stauter boat, and making art and writing stories when it rained.
In a tone that is simple and direct, punctuated by truly hilarious moments. Key writes about Gulf Coast traditions including Mardi Gras, shrimping, fishing, dove hunting, jubilees, camping out, and bracing for hurricanes. These stories are full of colorful characters— Nasty Bill Dickson, a curmudgeonly tow-truck driver; I’llNeeda, a middle-aged homeless woman encamped in a shack across the road; and the Ghost of Zundel’s Wharf, “the restless soul of a long-dead construction worker.” The stories are illustrated by charming and evocative artwork by the author’s brother Murray Key.
Although generations of readers of the Little House books are familiar with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s early life up through her first years of marriage to Almanzo Wilder, few know about her adult years. Going beyond previous studies, Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder focuses upon Wilder’s years in Missouri from 1894 to 1957. Utilizing her unpublished autobiography, letters, newspaper stories, and other documentary evidence, John E. Miller fills the gaps in Wilder’s autobiographical novels and describes her sixty-three years of living in Mansfield, Missouri. As a result, the process of personal development that culminated in Wilder’s writing of the novels that secured her reputation as one of America’s most popular children’s authors becomes evident.
Becoming Ray Bradbury
Jonathan R. Eller University of Illinois Press, 2013 Library of Congress PS3503.R167Z65 2011 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Becoming Ray Bradbury chronicles the making of an iconic American writer by exploring Ray Bradbury's childhood and early years of his long life in fiction, film, television, radio, and theater. Jonathan R. Eller measures the impact of the authors, artists, illustrators, and filmmakers who stimulated Bradbury's imagination throughout his first three decades. Unprecedented access to Bradbury's personal papers and other private collections provides insight into his emerging talent through his unpublished correspondence, his rare but often insightful notes on writing, and his interactions with those who mentored him during those early years.
Beginning with his childhood in Waukegan, Illinois, and Los Angeles, this biography follows Bradbury's development from avid reader to maturing author, making a living writing for pulp magazines. Eller illuminates the sources of Bradbury's growing interest in the human mind, the human condition, and the ambiguities of life and death--themes that became increasingly apparent in his early fiction. Bradbury's correspondence documents his frustrating encounters with the major trade publishing houses and his earliest unpublished reflections on the nature of authorship. Eller traces the sources of Bradbury's very conscious decisions, following the sudden success of The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man, to voice controversial political statements in his fiction, and he highlights the private motivations behind the burst of creative energy that transformed his novella "The Fireman" into the classic novel Fahrenheit 451.
Becoming Ray Bradbury reveals Bradbury's emotional world as it matured through his explorations of cinema and art, his interactions with agents and editors, his reading discoveries, and the invaluable reading suggestions of older writers. These largely unexplored elements of his life pave the way to a deeper understanding of his more public achievements, providing a biography of the mind, the story of Bradbury's self-education and the emerging sense of authorship at the heart of his boundless creativity.
In this unconventional memoir, Kevin Holdsworth vividly portrays life in remote, unpredictable country and ruminates on the guts - or foolishness - it takes to put down roots and raise a family in a merciless environment.
Growing up in Utah, Holdsworth couldn't wait to move away. Once ensconced on the East Coast, however, he found himself writing westerns and dreaming of the mountains he'd skied and climbed. Fed up with city life, he moved to a small Wyoming town.
In Big Wonderful, he writes of a mountaineering companion's death, the difficult birth of his son, and his father's terminal illness - encounters with mortality that sharpened his ideas about risk, care, and commitment. He puts a new spin on mountaineering literature, telling wild tales from his reunion with the mountains but also relating the surprising willpower it took to turn back from risks he would have taken before he became a father. He found he needed courage to protect and engage deeply with his family, his community, and the wild places he loves.
Holdsworth's essays and poems are rich with anecdotes, characters, and vivid images. Readers will feel as if they themselves watched a bear destroy an entire expedition's food, walked with his great-great-grandmother along the icy Mormon Trail, and tried to plant a garden in Wyoming's infamous wind.
Readers who love the outdoors will enjoy this funny and touching take on settling down and adventuring in the West's most isolated country.
Body, Remember: A Memoir
Kenny Fries University of Wisconsin Press, 2003 Library of Congress PS3556.R568Z464 2003 | Dewey Decimal 818.5409
In this poetic, introspective memoir, Kenny Fries illustrates his intersecting identities as gay, Jewish, and disabled. While learning about the history of his body through medical records and his physical scars, Fries discovers just how deeply the memories and psychic scars run. As he reflects on his relationships with his family, his compassionate doctor, the brother who resented his disability, and the men who taught him to love, he confronts the challenges of his life. Body, Remember is a story about connection, a redemptive and passionate testimony to one man’s search for the sources of identity and difference.
When writer Merrill Joan Gerber is invited to join her husband, a history professor, as he takes a class of American college students to study in Florence, Italy, she feels terrified at the idea of leaving her comforts, her friends, and her aged mother in California. Her husband tries to assure her that her fear of Italy—and her lack of knowledge of the Italian language—will be offset by the discoveries of travel. "I can’t tell you exactly what will happen, but something will. And it will all be new and interesting." Botticelli Blue Skies is the tale of a woman who readily admits to fear of travel, a fear that many experience but are embarrassed to admit. When finally she plunges into the new adventure, she describes her experiences in Florence with wit, humor, and energy.
Instead of sticking to the conventional tourist path, Gerber follows her instincts. She makes discoveries without tour guides droning in her ear and reclaims the travel experience as her own, taking time to shop in a thrift shop, eat in a Chinese restaurant that serves "Dragon chips," make friends with her landlady who turns out to be a Countess, and visit the class of a professor at the university. She discovers a Florence that is not all museums and wine. With newfound patience and growing confidence, Gerber makes her way around Florence, Venice, and Rome. She visits famous places and discovers obscure ones—in the end embracing all that is Italian. Botticelli Blue Skies (accompanied by the author’s own photographs) is an honest, lyrical, touching account of the sometimes exhausting, often threatening, but always enriching physical and emotional challenge that is travel.
From Publishers Weekly
In these 20 interviews with women writers of fiction, Jordan, who teaches at Hampton University in Virginia, attempts to plumb the relations between black and white women in fiction and in life, and to explore the creative process. Although the book suffers from lengthy discussions of somewhat obscure work, the interviewees, most of whom have portrayed female characters of a race other than their own, offer intriguing, often conflicting observations about the primacy of race, gender or class. Kaye Gibbons ( Ellen Foster ) suggests that rural locations offer commonality to black and white Southern women; Marita Golden ( Long Distance Life ) observes that white writers emphasize female beauty while black writers focus on character. This book may be a useful supplement to literature courses.
From Library Journal
The message derived from the candid and articulate women interviewed here is, as Belva Plain states, "you learn as you live together." Editor Jordan (Hampton Univ., Virginia) has opened a dialog on writing and race relations by publishing these interviews with 20 significant contemporary black and white women writers, from Alice Childress and Joyce Carol Oates to Mildred Pitts Walker. The substance of these writers' thoughts is that the commonality of women's experience informs the genuine portrayal of a character as much as does the writer's understanding of her blackness or whiteness. This special book, so different from others that examine the writing process, is likely to stimulate dialog among women and to provoke serious study of many excellent women writers working today. Recommended for all collections supporting the study of literature, women's studies, and race relations.
By the end of the nineteenth century, Ralph Waldo Emerson was well on his way to becoming the “Wisest American” and the “Sage of Concord,” a literary celebrity and a national icon. With that fame came what Robert Habich describes as a blandly sanctified version of Emerson held widely by the reading public. Building Their Own Waldos sets out to understand the dilemma faced by Emerson’s early biographers: how to represent a figure whose subversive individualism had been eclipsed by his celebrity, making him less a representative of his age than a caricature of it.
Drawing on never-before-published letters, diaries, drafts, business records, and private documents, Habich explores the making of a cultural hero through the stories of Emerson’s first biographers— George Willis Cooke, a minister most recently from Indianapolis who considered himself a disciple; the English reformer and newspaper mogul Alexander Ireland, a friend for half a century; Moncure D. Conway, a Southern abolitionist then residing in London, who called Emerson his “spiritual father and intellectual teacher”; the poet and medical professor Oliver Wendell Holmes, with Emerson a member of Boston’s gathering of literary elite, the Saturday Club; James Elliot Cabot, the family’s authorized biographer, an architect and amateur philosopher with unlimited access to Emerson’s unpublished papers; and Emerson’s son Edward, a physician and painter whose father had passed over him as literary executor in favor of Cabot.
Just as their biographies reveal a complex, socially engaged Emerson, so too do the biographers’ own stories illustrate the real-world perils, challenges, and motives of life-writing in the late nineteenth century, when biographers were routinely vilified as ghoulish and disreputable and biography as a genre underwent a profound redefinition. Building Their Own Waldos is at once a revealing look at Emerson’s constructed reputation, a case study in the rewards and dangers of Victorian life-writing, and the story of six authors struggling amidst personal misfortunes and shifting expectations to capture the elusive character of America’s “representative man,” as they knew him and as they needed him to be.