The Miss Dennis School of Writingby 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
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.
In the footsteps of other essayists and columnistsErma Bombeck and Steinbach's hero E.B. White among themSteinbach 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 attentionshe is, after all, an award-winning reporterbut 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.
- Bancroft Press
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.32(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.13(d)
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