A Solemn Pleasure: To Imagine, Witness, and Write

A Solemn Pleasure: To Imagine, Witness, and Write

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Overview

A Solemn Pleasure: To Imagine, Witness, and Write by Melissa Pritchard

Firecracker Award Finalist
Poets & Writers “Best Books for Writers” selection
Literary Hub “Best Books about Books” selection
Image: Art, Faith, Mystery “Top Ten of the Year” selection

In an essay entitled “Spirit and Vision” Melissa Pritchard poses the question: “Why write?” Her answer reverberates throughout A Solemn Pleasure , presenting an undeniable case for both the power of language and the nurturing constancy of the writing life. Whether describing the deeply interior imaginative life required to write fiction, searching for the lost legacy of American literature as embodied by Walt Whitman, being embedded with a young female GI in Afghanistan, traveling with Ethiopian tribes, or revealing the heartrending story of her informally adopted son William, a former Sudanese child slave, this is nonfiction vividly engaged with the world. In these fifteen essays, Pritchard shares her passion for writing and storytelling that educates, honors, and inspires.

Melissa Pritchard is the author of, most recently, the novel Palmerino and the short story collection The Odditorium . Her books have received the Flannery O’Connor, Janet Heidinger Kafka, and Carl Sandburg awards and two of her short fiction collections were New York Times Notable Book and Editors’ Choice selections. Pritchard has worked as a journalist in Afghanistan, India, and Ethiopia, and her nonfiction has appeared in various publications, including O, The Oprah Magazine , Arrive , Chicago Tribune , and Wilson Quarterly . She lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781934137963
Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press
Publication date: 05/12/2015
Series: Art of the Essay Series
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 1,299,387
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Melissa Pritchard is the author of eight books of fiction, including the novel Palmerino and the story collection The Odditorium , as well as the essay collection A Solemn Pleasure (forthcoming from Bellevue Literary Press in 2015). Among other honors, her books have received the Flannery O’Connor, Janet Heidinger Kafka, and Carl Sandburg awards and two of her short fiction collections were New York Times Notable Book and Editors’ Choice selections. Pritchard has worked as a journalist in Afghanistan, India, and Ethiopia, and her nonfiction has appeared in various publications, including O, The Oprah Magazine , Arrive , Chicago Tribune , and Wilson Quarterly . She lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

Foreword contributor Bret Anthony Johnston is the author of the best-selling novel Remember Me Like This , a Barnes & Noble Discover selection and New York Times Editors’ Choice, and Corpus Christi: Stories . He’s also the editor of Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer . He is the Paul and Catherine Buttenweiser Director of Creative Writing at Harvard University.

Table of Contents

I.
A Room in London

  • The writer lives for two months in London, in another writer’s cramped but atmospheric refuge.
    Spirit and Vision
  • In this essay, the question “why write?” is posed and by way of an answer, Walt Whitman is shown to be a writer of compassionate witness, in contrast to the profit-based pressures of the marketplace.
    From the Deep South to the Desert South: An Epiphyte’s Confession
  • Aware of the power of region in fiction, the writer wonders if her own bland, semi-erased origins will be an obstacle to her literary ambitions.
    On Kaspar Hauser
  • In the British Library, composing a fictional account of the German-born feral child, Kaspar Hauser, the writer comes to see books as devotional objects, holy histories, reliquaries of the human mind.

    II.
    Time and Biology: On the Threshold of the Sacred

  • How inescapable pressures of temporality and mortality upon any writer’s work can be met with cultivated courage and an undiminished passion for expressing emotional truths.
    Elephant in the Dark
  • In this essay, an argument is made for “point of view” as being one of the most critical, early decisions to be made by the writer when embarking on a new story.
    The Gift of Warwick
  • A powerful, bittersweet arc of community can emerge in a writing workshop over weeks or months, attesting to attachments formed by a common vulnerability of writers and their shared passion for language and story.

    III.
    Doxology

  • The origins and history of the dachshund lead into the author’s own love for her miniature male dachshund, Simon.
    A Solemn Pleasure
  • When the writer reluctantly travels to a writing residency in a castle outside of Edinburgh, Scotland, weeks after her mother’s death, her grief is given perspective when she discovers a cemetery of ancient headstones, each inscription a compressed, often tragic, story.
    A Graven Space
  • In this reflective essay on Georgia O’Keefe, a question emerges: is it possible we idealize the lives of renowned artists in an attempt to unconsciously avoid responsibility for the success or failure of our own creativity?
    Decomposing Articles of Faith
  • Here is an unorthodox, even heretical, response to familiar phrases of Catholic prayer by the writer, herself an unorthodox, even heretical, Catholic.

    IV.
    Finding Ashton

  • In this piece, the writer embeds with six female soldiers in Panjshir Province, Afghanistan, and forms an unexpected attachment to the youngest, Senior Airman Ashton Goodman, who will be killed by an IED outside Bagram Air Field four months later.
    “Still, God Helps You”: Memories of a Sudanese Child Slave
  • The harrowing story of a Sudanese boy captured from his village and enslaved by the Janjaweed, only to escape years later into still more harrowing circumstances, as told to the writer by William Akoi Mawwin, now the writer’s informally adopted son.
    Circle of Friends
  • Bereft and directionless, in quiet crisis, the writer travels with photographers Angela Fisher and Carol Beckwith to the remote Omo River region of Ethiopia, gaining an unexpected perspective on aging and loneliness.

    V.
    On Bibliomancy, Anthropodermic Bibliopegy and the Eating Papers

  • An essay on books, focusing on the use of books for divination, on rare but extant books bound in human skin, and on the ancient healing practice of eating words written on paper.
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    A Solemn Pleasure: To Imagine, Witness, and Write 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
    anneb10 More than 1 year ago
    A Solemn Pleasure is a fantastic book of essays.  From a brief stay in London, to the death of the author's mother, and the story of a child slave, each one makes you think.  I laughed, was frankly envious of one, and cried at several others.  My favorite essay might be Doxology, about the author's Dachshund; though A Room in London is a close second. One thing I loved about this book is that the writing is up close; personal.  I felt less like I was reading a book of essays, and more like I was having a series of long conversations with a friend.  Anyone who enjoys reading essays will love this book. (Full Disclosure: I received a review copy through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program).