WOUNDS OF PASSION: A Writing Life by bell hooks


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In her 15th book, hooks continues the memoir she began in Bone Black (1996). The little southern black girl who dreamed of being a writer from the age of ten is now a young woman entering Stanford University, away from home, from the South and Jim Crow laws, for the first time in her life. At 19 she takes a lover, Mack, an older black intellectual and poet, and begins work on the book that, 11 years later, would be her first published work, Ain't I a Woman? The relationship with Mack is at the center of this book, which is otherwise a review of all of hooks's usual concerns--race, gender, sexuality and desire, money and its uses and abuses, aesthetics, poetry. Her affair with Mack is turbulent, with an occasional undercurrent of violence that hearkens back to the relationship between her mother and father delineated in the previous book. hooks eschews conventional chronological structure to tell the story of her young adulthood and coming of age as a writer. Instead, she repeatedly moves back and forth in time, in chapters that are often organized thematically, shifting from third-person reflections on her young self to first-person recollections that move uneasily between past and present tenses. The result is an ungainly and repetitive hodgepodge of tones that's most effective when it's most conventional. At its best, the book contains flashes of insight that serve as a vivid reminder of how astute and downright brilliant a social critic and thinker the author is (as in a passing observation about the corrosive effects of ""quiet drinking"" in a family). But too much of this volume is either self-congratulatory gush (no author should write about how ""daring and difficult"" the book at hand is), or painfully misjudged efforts at poetic effect. Only a writer as good and determinedly idiosyncratic as hooks could have produced a book as misguided as this.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Henry Holt