This anthology of 14 essays, first delivered as lectures at several writers' conferences around the country, contains some wisdom and inspiration but lacks coherence. Jane Smiley reflects thoughtfully on ``the extreme paucity of mothers, and of the tradition of a maternal vision'' in our literary culture, and suggests that a new ``literature of real, live motherhood'' is being forged. Christopher Merrill, reporting on a writers' conference in Slovenia, finds the famous panelists ignoring the nearby Bosnian war and instead haranguing the U.S. government about copyright law. William Kittredge, citing the disenfranchised, suggests, ``We need stories that will encourage us toward acts of the imagination that in turn will drive us to the arts of empathy.'' Agha Shahid Ali criticizes American ethnocentrism for ignoring Faiz Ahmed Faiz, a great Pakistani poet who wrote from Beirut and whose death was front-page news in the Middle East and elsewhere. Several lectures, however, are slight, and despite the book's title, few pieces address the craft of writing. Brown, former director of the Aspen Writers' Conference, is co-founder of Writers' Conferences and Festivals. (June)
Edited by the president of Writers' Conferences and Festivals, this anthology of 14 lectures delivered by writers to various writers' conferences begins with Jane Smiley's thoughts on the difficulty of truly writing from a mother's point of view (men just can't do it). Christopher Merrill contributes a standout piece from the fringe of the Balkan civil war. In the title piece, Agha Shalid Ali analyzes the work of Faed Ahmed Faiz, arguing that the politics of exclusion keep Faiz little known in the United States. A few pieces stray as they analyze particular works, but most of these writers are discussing writing itself, not another writer; this is the book's strength. Writing instructors will find good material in this collection to spark discussion. Writers will find some inspiration, insight, and laughs. Recommended for academic and public libraries.-- Robert Moore, DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Co. Information Svcs., N. Billerica, Mass.
It's somewhat surprising that an anthology of this sort (the first volume in a planned series of such anthologies) is only now becoming a reality. These 14 essays, on such diverse topics as the environment and the state of the publishing world today, were first delivered as lectures at writers' conferences. Cap Snyder presents his vision of the new "nature" writing, and Donald Justice offers a probing look at three uncelebrated poets. Of particular note is Jane Smiley's contribution--"Can Mothers Think?"--in which her piquant observations concerning the effects of motherhood on writers (and the consequent changing image of mothers in literature) make for stimulating reading. All in all, an eclectic group of contemplative musings, with something of value for most readers and writers.