A Solemn Pleasure: To Imagine, Witness, and Write
"A writer at the height of her powers." ―Oprah.com
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 the novel Palmerino, the short story collection The Odditorium, and the essay collection A Solemn Pleasure: To Imagine, Witness, and Write, among other books. Emeritus Professor of English and Women's Studies at Arizona State University, she now lives in Columbus, Georgia.
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About the Author
Poets & Writers "Best Books for Writers" selection
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Image: Art, Faith, Mystery "Top Ten of the Year" selection
Publishers Weekly "Top 10: Literary Biographies, Essays & Criticism"
Foreword Reviews "Books for Grads" selection "Altogether magnificent. . . . [The essay "Spirit and Vision"] bears that cynicism-disarming quality of a commencement address and enchants the psyche like an incantation. . . . [Pritchard] ends the piece like one might a commencement address--and if this were one, it would certainly be among the greatest commencement addresses of all time. . . . Complement A Solemn Pleasure, seriously pleasurable in its entirety, with Susan Sontag's advice to writers, Virginia Woolf on writing and self-doubt, and Cheryl Strayed's no-nonsense wisdom on the craft." --Brain Pickings "Pritchard's essay collection is one to keep by your bedside to read again and again. Like Lewis Hyde's The Gift, Pritchard plumbs the depths of why we write, in order to uncover the important reasons we need to write. . . . A Solemn Pleasure is a treasure of a book. Keep it nearby, because in the darkest depths when you are confronted with the beautiful pain of the blank page, Pritchard will remind you how words can create light. . . . And know that this book will give you super powers." --Atticus Review "Invite[s] underlining, re-reading, and reading aloud. . . . Pritchard [is] a beautifully descriptive stylist and deeply committed artist. . . . A Solemn Pleasure is not only a great way for readers to meet [her], but an excellent choice to mark the launch of Bellevue Literary Press' new series, The Art of the Essay." --Rain Taxi Review of Books "Elegant, funny. . . . Pritchard's own prose embodies her conviction that great writing involves both imagining the inner life of its subjects and a 'bearing witness' to the human condition and the transcendent mystery that surrounds it." --Image: Art, Faith, Mystery "Pritchard once again validates the assertion that all true art is moral, as it instructs by seeking to improve life." --World Literature Today "A spirited, intelligent, wide-ranging exploration of the joys, frustrations, and trials of the life of the writer." --Colorado Review "Ethically rich. . . . Pay attention to the surge of [Pritchard's] mind and the spiritual energy she demonstrates." --Spirituality & Practice "As insightful as it is engaging. . . . Pritchard will make you cry, think, and laugh; each essay is filled with wit and wisdom. . . . A great read for writers, readers looking for enlightenment, and those who savor nonfiction that explores the spiritual through the everyday." --Library Journal (starred review) "Moving. . . . Readers will treasure the book's numerous memorable moments." --Publishers Weekly "Heartfelt . . . bear[s] powerful witness to suffering, compassion, and transcendence." --Kirkus Reviews "From grief to daily rituals to the shape of a dachshund, Pritchard insightfully connects the most obscure of subjects to reveal gems of truth about the human experience." --Foreword Reviews "Full of lovely sentences that often achieve an almost mystical, spiritual power." --NewPages "A fine, delicate essayist. . . . Pritchard's writing is inspiring." --Literary Hub "Gorgeous and moving. . . . Each of these essays confirms that to write is to think and feel, to take part in the profound and sacred act of witness. Read together--and the book is so arresting that many readers will finish it in a single sitting--the essays amount to a clear and irrefutable mandate for empathy." --BRET ANTHONY JOHNSTON, director of Creative Writing at Harvard University, author of Remember Me Like This, and editor of Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer (from the Foreword) "'Great writers are witnesses to the spirit of their age, ' Melissa Pritchard declares. And in her splendid collection of essays, A Solemn Pleasure, she bears witness to matters great and small, from the quotidian joys of a borrowed room in London to the life and example of Georgia O'Keeffe to the plight of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Art is for her 'a form of active prayer, ' which leads her to journey both inward and outward, notably to Afghanistan, where the consequences of the war on terror become tragically clear. This is the spirit of our age, gracefully rendered in Pritchard's essays, which will stand the test of time." --CHRISTOPHER MERRILL, director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa and author of The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War "Melissa Pritchard has written an incredible book that is an important testament to the role of the writer as society's moral and spiritual compass. In A Solemn Pleasure, Pritchard meshes the personal with the political in a bold and deeply honest composition that will make every reader a more compassionate human being. This book is written from the heart. It will refresh your passions and inspire the deepest yearnings of your soul. I found myself underlining, taking notes, and feeling inspired to write." --JEN PERCY, author of Demon Camp Praise for Melissa Pritchard "A writer at the height of her powers." --Oprah.com "Dreamy and delightful." --NPR's All Things Considered "Wildly imaginative. . . . Endearingly quirky." --Glamour "Precise and lucid." --New York Times Book Review "Pritchard polishes the strange and makes it shine." --LESLIE JAMISON, San Francisco Chronicle "One of our finest writers." --ANNIE DILLARD "Melissa Pritchard's voice is completely her own." --TAYARI JONES "I have admired Melissa Pritchard's writing for several years now for its wisdom, its humble elegance, and its earthy comedy." --RICK MOODY "Melissa Pritchard is a treasure." --BRADFORD MORROW "Melissa Pritchard's prose, that darkly lyrical firmament, is brightened by the dizzy luminous arrangement of her stars and satellites, her great gifts to us: humor, irony, kindness, brilliance." --ANTONYA NELSON "A writer of immense talent." --PETER STRAUB "No one is quite so brilliant at voicing the all-but-impossible-to-track interior lives of the most complex human beings as is Melissa Pritchard." --BRAD WATSON