An Elegy for the Library – The New York Times

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Alice Walker, “The Color Purple,” and writing to heal

BACK STORY

“Dear God, I am fourteen years old. I have always been a good girl. Maybe you can give me a sign letting me know what is happening to me.”

So begins “The Color Purple,” the story of Celie, a poor, black child-bride who struggles to escape her abusive stepfather in 1930s Georgia.

Photo

Alice Walker, the author of “The Color Purple,” turns 72 today. Credit Peter Earl McCollough for The New York Times

The author of the book, Alice Walker, born on this day in 1944 in Eatonton, Ga., told the tale mostly through Celie’s letters. The authenticity of her voice catapulted the novel to best-sellers lists, as well as a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award.

Ms. Walker was born to sharecroppers, the youngest of eight children. At age 8, she was blinded in one eye when her brother accidentally shot her with a BB gun.

She later wrote that the disfiguring scar and blindness left her feeling isolated and introspective. She started a journal and began to develop her writing voice.

“I think writing really helps you heal yourself,” Ms. Walker once told The Times. “I think if you write long enough, you will be a healthy person. That is, if you write what you need to write, as opposed to what will make money, or what will make fame.”

Source: Your Tuesday Briefing: New Hampshire Primary, Obama’s Budget, the SAT – The New York Times

James Salter (1925-2015)

Salter pilot

From the interview of Salter in Paris Review, Summer, 1993:

“I’m not the first person who feels that it’s the writer’s true occupation to travel. In a certain sense, a writer is an exile, an outsider, always reporting on things, and it is part of his life to keep on the move. Travel is natural. Furthermore, many men of ancient times died on the road, and the image is a strong one. Kings of Arabia, when they are buried, are not given great tombs. They are buried on the side of the road beneath ordinary stones. One thing I saw in England long ago struck me and has always stayed with me. I was going to visit someone in a little village, walking from the railway station across the fields, and I saw an old man, perhaps in his seventies, with a pack on his back. He looked to be a vagabond, dignified, somewhat threadbare, marching along with his staff. A dog trotted at his heels. It was an image I thought should be the final one of a life. Traveling on.”

I came across Salter late in my life, two years ago. His descriptive powers, in part illustrated above, are deep and wide. The first chapter to A Sport and a Pastime is like no other introductory–speeding across France on the train–and his prose grasps you so you are there with him in the compartment.

Read Salter and travel. Yes, as someone has written in the Comment section, the world is lighter in weight with Salter’s death; the heavens, I think, be heavier with his passing for he is up there, amidst the clouds.

[Copied from my contribution to the Comments section, The New York Times, June 20, 2015, James Salter obituary.]

Salter Paris