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Saturday, May 26, 2007
Department of Book Reports When I was 17
Posted by SeattleDan
If you’re like me, you read memoirs, and in my case, literary memoir, for juicy bits of gossip. Sara Paretsky, the creator of the fictional woman detective, V I Warshawski, has written a memoir that has no gossip or insider information about her fellow mystery writers. Instead Writing in an Age of Silence (Verso $22.95) is a thoughtful look at her career as a writer and how events in our time have shaped her fiction.
The book is comprised of five essays, re-shaped from various talks and speeches she has given. The first essay explores her own childhood, growing up in a fairly dysfunctional family, and being one a very few Jewish families in Lawrence, Kansas. The second essay looks at her days as a young woman in Chicago during the mid-sixties, doing social work on the South Side, her encounters with racism and how Martin Luther King Jr. affected her life and thought. The third essay deals with her participation in the Woman’s movement in the ‘70’s and documents clearly how women are still subordinated today, by the ideologues of current Administration and the far Christian Right. The fourth essay examines the idea of American individualism, tracing it’s origins from Roger Williams, founder of the Rhode Island colony, now celebrated for allowing religious freedom, through James Fennimore Cooper’s fictional character, the Deerstalker, Natty Bumppo, and on into the 20th century creation of the hard-boiled PI’s like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. The last essay “Truth, Lies and Duct Tape” is a ringing indictment of what America has become, beginning with consolidation of the publishing industry, the development of chain bookstores, the slashing of public library budgets, and onto the Patriot Act and the loss of our civil liberties.
And in each essay, Paretsky looks at how these events, and the developments in her own life inform her work and the character of her fictional detective, Ms. Warshawski. She does so sometimes with sadness, sometimes with anger, sometimes with nostalgia, and sometimes with humor. Above all, she is concerned with social justice and how we treat one another.
She concludes her work: “It is my only hope, that against those forces which seek to silence us, to rob us of our voices and our precious freedoms that my words, Sappho’s words, indeed, our Constitution’s words, that all these words, which are only breath, will not only endure, but triumph”. In Sara Paretsky, we have a great woman of conscience.
Writing In An Age of Silence is available at Jackson Street Books and Fine Independent Bookstores everywhere!
democommie™™™™®© is lost somewhere in Omaha. We need to get a detective to find him.