Day 261 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and my book group was reading The Used World, by Haven Kimmel, and discussed it last night in the summer world of women, to use a lingering image from the novel.
Hazel Hunnicutt is the bookish sister in that book, and characters are often found reading novels she has recommended, borrowed from her. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving, out of which an important snapshot falls. To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf, which makes Rebekah weep. Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote.
I have an ex-library first edition of Other Voices, Other Rooms on my own bookshelf at home--well, actually, right in front of me now--rescued from Discard (inkstamped on title page, alas!) from a school library. Schools sometimes just throw these books away. They don't recycle, donate, or take any special measures for them--no staff, no time for special efforts on behalf of books or readers, except that certain teachers and librarians put them on a cart or table for a time in the hall, free books for the taking, thank goodness! (See Nancy Devine's blog today for more reflection on what's worth saving.)
Joyce Carole Oates was a bookish sister, evident in The Faith of a Writer, her collection of essays on reading and writing. Here is an excerpt from the tiny, powerful opening essay, "My Faith as a Writer."
Through the local or regional, through our individual voices, we work to create art that will speak to others who know nothing of us. In our very obliqueness to one another, an unexpected intimacy is born.
The individual voice is the communal voice.
The regional voice is the universal voice.
I do believe that, too. I see that it has been true in literary history, and I feel it in my heart. I note the irony that some writers and readers tout the virtues of locally grown food but sometimes ignore or neglect the local or regional voice. But a Winesburg, Ohio will always speak to someone at the right time in hir life! (hir = the neutral-gendered "her" or "his" I just learned!)
I also believe that patience and persistence can see a writer through the long meandering process of finding a voice and living the writer's life. I am honored to have my take on this featured in Her Circle Ezine at the moment, here another circle of women quietly, patiently, persistently supporting one another.
The Bronte writing women were all three bookish sisters! And for a humorous excellent television version, see Modern Family, in which there's a bookish sister and a popular sister, and almost never the twain shall meet, except in love and fierce family loyalty and instructions involving how to talk on a cell phone. (I see it on hulu.) Alice James was a bookish sister in a bookish family! And her book is her diary.
Next, my women's book group will be reading Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan, related by marriage to someone in my local wine-drinking circle of women. Loving Frank, which I read when it first came out in 2007, and look forward to re-reading, as re-reading is what made The Used World astoundingly lovely to me, is a fictionalized account of the real relationship between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney, seen by some as scandalous, by others as unconventional. I don't send you to Wikipedia for her as that will spoil the suspense of the novel! Actually, so will the Frank Lloyd Wright article, if you read it all, so don't read the midlife controversy part if you don't know it already!
And now let me send you to further delight. The strawberry painting is by J. Bernard Kroch, who has given me permission to use his work. Here is his new website if you want to see more, or buy one of his spectacular small paintings!!
And here is the new Richard Jones poetry feature at Escape Into Life! You can find more great poetry features--Sarah J. Sloat, Nin Andrews, Susan Rich, Kelli Russell Agodon, Diane Lockward, Jannett Highfill, etc., etc.!--on the Poetry page. And also, me, from before I was poetry editor!! I like being a bookish sister.
"You must change your life," said Rilke. So that's what I keep doing. I worked as an actor and director in Chicago, wrote for an encyclopedia, edited two poetry journals, shelved and retrieved materials in several libraries, walked beans, and was an assistant professor of English. Now I serve as Poetry Editor and Editor at Large for Escape Into Life, an online arts magazine, write & edit as a freelancer, blog "eight days a week," study the random, tend perennials, and listen to birdsong.