For anyone who places value on books, an occasional purge can bring on a mild existential crisis with flashes of anxiety, guilt and regret.
“Yet even the most sentimental book lover must, at some point, clear space for more books,” notes Julia Serebrinsky.
“My moment of book purge liberation came when I was getting ready to donate my modest collection of Sylvia Plath biographies to a local library. Anyway, as I leafed wistfully through one of them I discovered a long lost portrait of my mother, sketched by an old friend, a portrait we all loved and presumed lost. I took it as a sign and a calling.”
“My favorite summertime hobby was stunning ants and feeding them to spiders,” reveals Gillian Flynn.
My point is not that I was an odd kid (although looking at this on paper now, I worry). Or that I was a bad kid (here’s where I tell you — for the sake of my loving parents — that I had enjoyed happy wonder years back in good old Kansas City).
But these childhood rites of passage — the rough-housing, the precocious sexuality, the first bloom of power plays — really don’t make it into the oral history of most women. Men speak fondly of those strange bursts of childhood aggression, their disastrous immature sexuality. They have a vocabulary for sex and violence that women just don’t. Even as adults.
Powerful in the first writers I discovered was the naked South—primal black swamps, heat mirages, peach blows, moss-hung oaks, laurel slicks—the land itself, a sense of which every southern writer was spoon-fed, along with grits, smothered quail, and chess pie.
“The body of southern literature has warmed me all my life,” writes Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun.
“Having moved back to the South after a lifetime in California, I’m immersing myself in contemporary writers. As I did as a teenager, I’m taking notes, ready to learn how this verdant, haunted land continues to shape the writers who love it.”
Call it a mental health day. Sometimes you get so lost in the world of your book, you just can’t get yourself out of the house. You barely remember to eat or sleep. You might even call in sick to work.
I know just what that’s like. I remember a time when a book (books, actually) captured me to the point where I couldn’t stop reading – literally could not stop reading – for days.
I had all kinds of things planned for my week off work. None of it happened. I spent days cocooned in my apartment, reading. When I finally emerged, I was dazed. Raw. Unfit for society.
“A Life Apart is a story of a forbidden love that culminated with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and spanned World War II through the Civil Rights movement to present day,” explains author L.Y. Marlow.
“It was truly a labor of love to craft the untethered devotion between Morris (a white sailor) and Beatrice (a young black woman) and do it against the backdrop of a raging and terrible war. The words came easy, from deep within the most sacred and sensitive places of my heart. I understood what Morris and Beatrice must have felt, despite my resistance to utter anything that would dishonor such a delicate and daunting time.”
“If you’re thinking about what you’re going to do post-graduation now (before you walk across the stage), you’re definitely on the right track,” says author Katherine Schwarzenegger.
“That motivation will be very useful when it comes to finding and developing your future career, so great job! But rather than worry about the future or stress over how you’re going to succeed and what you’re going to do, try to apply that energy towards positive thoughts and determination. It’s so useful during a time like this!”
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