The Miss Dennis School of Writing

The Miss Dennis School of Writing

by Alice Steinbach
     
 

The first book by Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Steinbach is an intimate, personal collection of essays, remembrances, and columns that follows in the creative nonfiction tradition of Anna Quindlen and May Sarton. While it recounts the experience and observations of a divorced, working mother, it expresses hopes and fears universal to all women. Steinbach focuses on

Overview

The first book by Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Steinbach is an intimate, personal collection of essays, remembrances, and columns that follows in the creative nonfiction tradition of Anna Quindlen and May Sarton. While it recounts the experience and observations of a divorced, working mother, it expresses hopes and fears universal to all women. Steinbach focuses on the big and small things of life: the bond between lifelong friends; coming to grips with loss; the quiet, everyday moments between parents and child; the spiritual connection to nature; the realities of being a single parent. She writes of the people who've touched her own life: the influential teacher; the worldly aunt; the writer hero; the woman she sees regularly at a bus stop as both head to work. She offers us beautifully written lessons she's learned during a lifetime of changes and challenges.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this collection of her essays and columns, Pulitzer Prize-winning Baltimore Sun journalist Steinbach seeks to "rescue from insignificance some of the small events that make up a life." These pieces thus explore, with quiet grace, the unexpected pleasures that are gleaned from an appreciation of the "ordinary"a sleeping cat, a blooming garden, a well-cooked meal. Such familiareven ostensibly mundanedetails of our lives, Steinbach maintains, play a far more important part in shaping our identities and our sense of our relationship to the world than do the "exotic encounters" or momentous events to which we attach much significance. Alternately poignant and humorous, sedately contemplative and bristling with emotional energy, Steinbach's various musings on the daily rhythms of her own moods and experiences transform "everyday life" into a rich and meaningful journey. Author tour. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Steinbach, a columnist and feature writer for the Baltimore Sun and 1985 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing, presents in her first book an open, honest, charming, and witty collection of personal essays. Focusing on the familiar, Steinbach relates private thoughts and remembrances of people who influenced her, the loss of loved ones, childhood follies and fantasies, the ever-present continuing lessons from her deceased mother and grandmother, her single motherhood and relationship with two grown sons, romance, fashion, growing up, and parenthood. These essays reveal the influence of time and experience on memory, imagination, and reflection. Steinbach offers an inspirational book that will appeal primarily to women over 30 who will identify with the type of experiences and memories she describes. Recommended for public libraries and comprehensive women's studies collections.Jeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ. Libs., New Brunswick, N.J.
Kirkus Reviews
Journalist Steinbach is a Pulitzer Prize winner, but the award was given for feature articles written for the Baltimore Sun, not for this motley assortment of reflections on "the small events that make up a life."

In the footsteps of other essayists and columnists—Erma Bombeck and Steinbach's hero E.B. White among them—Steinbach digs for the universal in the personal, and from time to time, she strikes pay dirt. Among her favorite, and more successful, subjects are her sons, her cats (in particular the charismatic Max), and her late mother. Tired and dated are observations on Gloria Steinem, Martha Stewart, and dieting. The essays are corraled into the usual categories, including relationships, raising children, childhood memories, work and growing older, with each section introduced by a brief commentary. The Miss Dennis of the title was the author's ninth-grade creative-writing teacher, who loved Emily Dickinson and directed her students to "pay attention" and to "find [a] unique voice." Steinbach clearly learned how to pay attention—she is, after all, an award-winning reporter—but she is still tuning her rather self- conscious voice. Nevertheless, there are some memorable turns of phrase here. Regarding wishing for the "world on a string" vs. small satisfactions like an uninterrupted supper hour, she says: "Small hopes . . . are a lot like dogs: They tend to come when they're called." There are also tender memories of her mother in the garden and her father on vacation. Steinbach's eye for eloquent detail is conveyed in only a few pieces here, among them "Pioneer Women."

Overall, Miss Dennis would not be happy. Resurrected from the newspaper morgue, these pieces tend to lose whatever punch they may have initially had.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780963124623
Publisher:
Bancroft Press
Publication date:
08/28/1996
Pages:
307
Product dimensions:
6.32(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.13(d)

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