CARNAL ACTS: Essays by Nancy Mairs
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A tough, spellbinding collection of essays on life as a woman, a feminist, and a victim of multiple sclerosis, by the author of Plaintext (1986) and Remembering the Bone House (1989). Reading Mairs' essays is like lingering over coffee with an old and dear, if occasionally prickly, friend. The title acknowledges the unique perspective gained from inhabiting any particular body--in this case a female, middle-class, middle-aged, and crippled one. The life experiences, both joyful and devastating, that Mairs' body has occasioned inform some fascinating tales as she grazes among issues as diverse as literary rudeness, civil disobedience, feminine shame, and the advantages of courage and of a life that includes some hardship. As in her previous books, her unflinching honesty and humor astound as she discusses the effects of her progressive illness on her family's collective psyche and on her own (though she insists that she's no braver than she has to be), while her descriptions of some telling minor moments in one crippled woman's daily experience both illuminate and inspire. Concluding with a harrowing account of her visit to Zaire, where her daughter worked with the Peace Corps and where precious few conveniences exist for the wheelchair-bound, Mairs illustrates the advantages of sticking to her creed: ""'This is my life,' I say to myself, 'fear and all. I'm responsible for it. And I'd better get on with it because it matters.'"" Such odds and ends by this relentlessly startling writer are worth volumes by those less intrepid.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1990
ISBN: 0807070858
Publisher: Harper & Row