Quiet Center: Women Reflecting on Life's Passages from the Pages of Victoria Magazine


In beautifully written memoirs by some of the great women writers of America, The Quiet Center resonates with the wisdom gleaned from everyday life. Originally published in the pages of Victoria magazine in its first decade, the essays in this volume speak to and from a woman's heart.
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New York, NY 1997 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. (Al-Oc-3-12) Sewn binding. Paper over boards. 352 p. Audience: General/trade.

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In beautifully written memoirs by some of the great women writers of America, The Quiet Center resonates with the wisdom gleaned from everyday life. Originally published in the pages of Victoria magazine in its first decade, the essays in this volume speak to and from a woman's heart.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Victoria, a Hearst magazine, has been described as one of the most successful consumer publications launched in the last decade. The short original essays collected here from its pages and introduced by its editor, Nancy Lindemeyer, are grouped under such topics as childhood, rituals, and "in the company of the past." For example, Susan Minot writes about the closeness of sisters, who form a "four-headed hydra." Madeleine L'Engle describes how not to "forget the obvious" lest we become "less human." Jane Smiley, a confirmed Janeite, tells of a male acquaintance who finally came to appreciate Austen's work. Diane Ackerman, in a section called "The Quiet Center of One's Life," describes feeding the deer who ravage her garden, happy that they "will survive at least one more day because of this food." The collection lacks biographical information about the authors but does provide good reading that can be dipped into. Appropriate for public and academic collections.Nancy P. Shires, East Carolina Univ., Greenville, N.C.
Kirkus Reviews
A collection of brief, rather shallow, sentiment-tinged essays and memoirs from some noted writers.

Victoria's editors have gathered almost 70 glimpses of domestic existence from the first decade of their magazine. The pieces seem to agree in feeling that life is, in fact, pretty much a bowl of cherries: The relatives here (usually female) almost always get along, children never pout, affluence is common, and spare time goes into gardening or reading or remembering what one has read. There are bright moments, as when Madeleine L'Engle notes (with the wryness that keeps her saccharine rating below this volume's average) that " `I can't do this and keep my integrity' usually means `I cannot do this and have my own way.' " Or when Carol Shields argues that parties provide a unique illumination of character. Or when Maxine Claire links the development of her poetic voice to her mother's talent for improvisational piano playing. Most entries, though, are more banal. Judith Thurman, who spent a year in Paris, anticipates the "Proustian glamour" that will accrue to her son when, as an adult, he can say he once played in the Luxembourg Gardens. Living in a house previously owned by two sisters, Susan Schneider imagines their kindly presence; even a form letter to the deceased sisters gives her the feeling that "the real message was: Remember us." Exuding the score-keeping attitude that gives good manners a bad name, Jane Howard informs us that her mother taught her to write thank-you notes and if she had ever had children, they certainly would have learned to do so, too.

To the reader who imagines that everyone else leads better, happier lives, this book whispers, in a voice scented with equal parts of attar of roses and smugness: "You're right. We do."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688154646
  • Publisher: Hearst Books
  • Publication date: 4/4/1997
  • Pages: 358
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Reeve Lindbergh's revelations about her famous mother:
I learned at a very young age that my mother, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, was a writer, beloved by the world. But that did not mean I approved. It wasn't until many years later that I became reconciled to her profession, and it was later still when, to my surprise, I made this same profession my own....It is extraordinary to see my mother's words in print now, quoted in a book or an article by someone I have never met. Once, when I was standing in my kitchen waiting for water to boil, I even found her quoted on the back of a box of herbal tea!

Catherine Calvert on the intimacy of sisterhood:
Those of us with sisters know certain truths: Here is the person with whom we are as familiar as our fingertips and at the farthest poles of fathoming. She's the one in our lives who'll complete the sentence as we speak it, share the memories, the household language. Even when the relationship is one tinged with rancor and rubbed by rivalry, the bedrock lies below.

Madeleine L'Engle on familial traditions:
How blessed I was to be born into a family with a tradition of storytelling. My mother was a Southerner, and after the terrible War Between the States, all that her family (like many others) had left were stories. Their houses had been burned. Much of the land had been salted so that it could not bear crops. There was no money. Storytelling did not cost anything, and it helped people who were underfed, sometimes starving, to remember who they were, and that their heritage mattered.

Excerpted from The Quiet Center. Copyright © 1997 by The Hearst Corporation.

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Table of Contents

Horse Love 3
Listening to My Mother's Song 10
The Palaces of Downtown 17
My Mother's Open Door 21
Miss Bartlett's Quotations 25
Learning the Language of Love 31
The Gift of Memory 34
The Transient Beauty of Fireflies 38
A Promenade with William 45
The Gift of a Name 49
A Desk for My Daughter 54
Sweet William 57
May Your Life Be One Sweet Song 63
Collecting Grandmothers 67
At Grandmother's Table 74
"Sick-Abed on Two Chairs": Pudding Comforts 77
Cheers for the Queen Mum 80
Forever Entwined 87
Alice and Charlotte 92
Telling the Story of Sisters 98
Places of the Heart
A Bell-Regulated Eden 105
Porch Swings, Old Novels, and Memories of Summers Past 113
Medora's Story 117
The Site of First Dreams 124
My Mother and Mendocino 133
The Tangle and the Bog 137
Oxford in My Time 143
A Gently Haunted House 146
Meditations Among the Peonies 149
Houseguests 156
"Tell Me a Story" 163
Messengers of the Heart 169
Pansies for Remembrance 174
Wrapping Up a Memory 180
Playing Santa 185
Thank-You Notes: Acts of Grace 190
A Crosswicks Kind of Christmas 196
By the Tuileries, the World in a Teacup 200
A Place at the Table 204
Parties Real and Otherwise 209
In the Company of the Past
The Dance of Life 219
It all Started with the Sampler 222
Piano for Four Hands 225
In the Company of the Past 230
The Stitches That Bind 234
Gingham - Forever Fresh 237
My Grandmother's Shell 241
On Writing and Writers
The Narrated Life 247
Edna St. Vincent Millay: Afternoon on a Hill 253
Passport to the Universe 258
Jane Austen's Heroines 263
Looking for Edith 267
The Grown-up Charms of Classic Children's Books 275
So I Knew Rachel Carson 279
Through the Window of a Book 282
A Visit to "The Country of the Pointed Firs" 288
Journeys with the Victorians: Intrepid Women Travelers 292
"I Feel the Same Way" 296
Writing to the Human Heart 302
The Quiet Center of One's Life
Meditations of a Beekeeper 309
Reflecting on Foot 312
Giving Love a Melody, Memory a Tune 318
The Romans of Old Books 322
Canoes: Summer's Magic Carpet 327
Too Obvious to Forget 330
Hiding Out 335
On Keeping a Journal 341
The Deer in Springtime 346
Notes on Contributors 351
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2001


    Reading this book is like sitting with dear friends over coffee. Each story has something wonderful for women to relate to. It is the kind of book that one would like to savor and take time reading. I found it simply charming.

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