A delightful collection of essays on becoming a writer, by the author of Ordinary Time (1993), which draws from literature, feminism, psychoanalysis, and life experience. Mairs's writing is a hybrid form of essay that can be both intellectual and abstract, as well as intimately autobiographical. ``I found my writing voice, and go on finding it...by listening to the voices around me, imitating them, then piping up on my own,'' says Mairs, who began to find her voice as a writer only in her 30s when she was already a graduate student, married, a mother, and a survivor of a bout of depression that landed her in a mental institution. It was then that she began to listen ``to the words and intonations of women as women.'' The sources of her literary feminist awakening included the writings of Virginia Woolf, Doris Lessing, Alice Walker, and French feminist theorist Julia Kristeva. But this slim volume is no academic tome. Her essays are grounded in experiences that are particular to her life—living with MS, or smaller moments such as a visit to a psychic who refuses to ``read'' her. In ``The Literature of Personal Disaster,'' which first appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Mairs writes from the singular vantage point of a woman who, having written about her own MS and suicidal depression, as well as her husband's cancer, is now frequently asked to review works in this ``sub-genre.'' She snappily takes on the harsh critics of these books, saying, ``The narrator of personal disaster, I think, wants not to whine, not to boast, but to comfort...it is possible to be both sick and happy. This good news, once discovered, demands to be shared.'' Voice Lessons should be both a comfort and a spiritual guide to women writers in search of their own ``voices.''
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