Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage: The Selected Stories of Bette Howland

(Author) (Afterword by)

Product Details

$18.00  $16.56
Public Space Books
Publish Date
5.3 X 8.0 X 1.1 inches | 1.1 pounds

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About the Author

Bette Howland (1937-2017) published three books in her lifetime: W-3, and the story collections Blue in Chicago and Things to Come and Go. She received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1984, after which she did not publish another book. Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, her selected stories, was published in 2019, restoring to the canon the work of a remarkable writer. Honor Moore is the author of Our Revolution; The Bishop's Daughter, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and The White Blackbird, a New York Times Notable Book; as well as three collections of poems. She lives in New York City.


Howland's sense of humor illuminates every page, and even her sharpest barbs glint with wisdom and humanity.... the rightful (after)life that awaits her work is that she be recognized as a Chicago writer of near-universal delight.
--Kathleen Rooney, Chicago Tribune Notable Books of 2019

This achingly beautiful book throbs with life, compassion, warmth, and humor.
Kirkus, starred review

A compassionate, trenchant, and hilarious ethnographer of eccentricities and dysfunctions, Howland now takes her place in Chicago's literary pantheon along with her mentor Saul Bellow, Nelson Algren, Gwendolyn Brooks, Barry Gifford, Stuart Dybek, Joseph Epstein, and Peter Orner
Donna Seaman, Booklist, starred review

Wherever you position Bette Howland's absence, the vacancy is glaring--she has the kind of large presence on the page that reconfigures the literary history of its moment.
--Honor Moore

That Bette Howland produced any books at all is a testament to her determination, for until she won the MacArthur she lived nearly always at or below the poverty line.... Yet Howland refused to abandon her dreams of a writing life. "She typed more than a hundred words a minute," her son recalled, "firing her Selectric day and night through my childhood like a machine gun." Given such circumstances, one might assume that Howland's writing would present a kind of literature of grievance, but one would be wrong. The energy in her fiction comes instead from a ferocious sense of engagement.... A stubborn avidity crowds out despair."
Donna Rifkind, Wall Street Journal

Loving, lacerating sketches... With her flexible stance toward reality, her eye for the amusing, curious, minutiae of existence, and her tonal range, Howland recalls the short-story writer Lucia Berlin.
Abigail Deutsch, Harper's

A Public Space might be responsible for the best lost-now-found title of 2019 with Chicago-born author Bette Howland's dry but empathetic brand of fiction. Just like Eve Babitz and Lucia Berlin before her, the Guggenheim and MacArthur "genius" fellowship-winning Howland is now available for a new generation to discover. --Jason Diamond, InsideHook

An insanely sane mix of the hard-to-fight city in the '70s and the accidental poetry of families stumbling through time.
--Robert SullivanVogue

In winding stories, Howland reflects on racism, crime, family, and aging in a segregated Chicago.... observing the kind of down-and-out, working-class people one might call "characters."--Laura Adamczyk, AV Club

The recent celebration of fellow forgotten female artists, the short story writer Lucia Berlin, championed by Lydia Davis, or the painter Himla af Klint, showcased at the Guggenheim, reminds us how necessary it is to restore these visionaries, to help reshape our collective artistic history.... Expanding the canon to make room for Howland enhances our reading of the literature she's in conversation with. This includes, notably, the stories of working-class America by her contemporary Raymond Carver.
--Jenessa Abrams, Guernica

Howland creates stark and strange works of genius, portraying the complexities of family relationships as beautifully as she portrays her narrators' insecurities, judgments, and anxieties.... This is a collection to savor, and Howland is an author to celebrate.--Publishers Weekly, starred review

If there's a Howland bandwagon (and there should be), hold me a seat, or I'll stand.
--Peter Orner

The stories of Bette Howland return to you like friends met once in a dream--strange, familiar, roughing up the texture of your days. These are stories that defy classification, but seem as fresh and vital as though they were written last week. The revival of Howland's work is one of the best things to have happened in recent memory.--Madeleine Watts, McNally Jackson

Bette Howland hit me like a meteor. She writes with the deft narrative voice of Grace Paley and Eudora Welty's fidelity of place, yet her work fell out of print. This collection brings her back, and we're all lucky.--Andrew Kay, East City Bookshop

"The rediscovery of Bette Howland as a major American writer not only feels just and right, it was, in retrospect, inevitable. A voice this unique simply can't be forgotten or ignored forever. Her words, though in many cases decades old, remain refreshing and vital. Her concerns are our concerns. In many ways she came to us when we needed her most."--Jeff Martin, Magic City Books

Calm Sea and Pros-per-ous Voy-age is a book to be savored... Howland's char-ac-ters illu-mi-nate a soul-ful por-trait of 1970s Chica-go that, thanks to its obser-va-tions on race, crime, and gen-tri-fi-ca-tion, could just as eas-i-ly depict Amer-i-ca today.--Jewish Book Council

Bette Howland's project feels less about the wants and needs of the individual and more about the places and the systems and the mechanisms through which the wants and needs of certain types of individuals are misplaced, distorted, or ignored... lives that perhaps the myopic mechanisms of fiction-writing have not often worked hard enough to make space for, lives that we've not listened to before.--Lynn Steger Strong, Epiphany

Like Bellow, Howland was a bard of Chicago, even at its most alarming.... A voice at once gritty and lyrical, despairing even while tenaciously holding onto hope. That Howland's work is back with us again shows that hope won out, after all. --Diane Cole, Jewish Week

Howland's powers of observation are like military-grade weapons.--University of Chicago Magazine

The writing is extraordinary: both dreamlike and hyperreal, experimental and classical, the product of a prodigious mythopoetic imagination and a visceral attention to the facts of downtroddenness and heartbreak.--Alicia Chesser Atkin, the Tulsa Voice