A SOLEMN PLEASURE

TO IMAGINE, WITNESS, AND WRITE

As with many collections, the quality varies, but the best of these heartfelt essays bear powerful witness to suffering,...

Essays in praise of writing and faith.

Journalist, fiction writer, and teacher Pritchard (Creative Writing/Arizona State Univ.; Palmerino, 2014, etc.) collects 15 pieces that testify to her belief that art is “a form of active prayer” and writing literature, a “sacred vocation.” The author addresses several essays to aspiring writers. In “Spirit and Vision,” she exhorts writers to think of their lives as “a form of perpetual perishing, that as you lose yourselves in devotion and discipline to your work, you will attain the Beloved and begin to perceive the divine reality in all.” Another essay recounts her search for a regional voice as indelible as those of William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Flannery O’Connor, writers “inextricably linked to place.” In the brief but potent essay “Elephant in the Dark,” Pritchard underscores the importance of a story’s point of view, asking, “which character owns the story most deeply?” A few pieces are slight memoirs: the author recalls her experience researching at the British Library; teaching British, Irish, and American writing students at Warwick University; and reflecting on why she came to admire Georgia O’Keeffe. Longer pieces are more substantive. “Finding Ashton,” a moving piece with a tragic ending, recounts her friendship with a female soldier that began when Pritchard was embedded with troops in Afghanistan. “ ‘Still, God Helps You’: Memories of a Sudanese Child Slave” reveals the harrowing story of 33-year-old William Mawwin, whom the author met when he was a student in Phoenix, Arizona, where she lives. When she discovered that he had to drop out of community college due to financial difficulties, she heard a “voice” that commanded her to pay for his tuition and books. In the course of many interviews, he related his experiences of unspeakable degradation and cruelty as a child slave.

As with many collections, the quality varies, but the best of these heartfelt essays bear powerful witness to suffering, compassion, and transcendence.

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-934137-96-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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