Thursday, December 8, 2011

Review: The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life by Nava Atlas

Reviewed by Connie

Published: 2011
*I received a free review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

It's about: This beautiful, beautiful book explores the lives of women writers today by including thoughts from the journals, letters, and books of such female literary greats as Virginia Woolf (you all know I'm cookoo for Virginia), Anais Nin, Madeleine L'Engle, George Sands, Willa Cather, Edna Ferber, Edith Wharton, and more. It covers nearly every aspect of a writer's life, from balancing children and writing to overcoming fear of rejection to fighting the battle to get published.

I thought: This book... is a beauty. Of all the books I have received from publishers to review, this puts every other book to shame. This is a book I would pay plenty of money for. (Lucky for me, though, I didn't need to). I have actually had it for quite a while, because I have been savoring it, digesting it morsel by delicious morsel. Not only are the quotes included fantastic, but the layout of the book (Nava Atlas studied graphic design and so designed the book as well as wrote it) is gorgeous. Each page is just full of glossy goodness.

I love this book so much I feel stupid writing about it, because I can't seem to find any educated-sounding words to describe it: "It's great, uh, it's really great, it's awesome, you should totally read it." For any woman (or even man, I think this could appeal to a male audience as well) who is at all interested in writing, or who has ever picked up a pen, who has ever kept a journal, or who has ever at some moment considered submitting something for publication, this book is a must read. It was honestly the perfect book for me in so many ways, and it's one that I will treasure and revisit for years to come. It made me want to keep closing the book and start my own writing project.

As a side note, I feel like Nava Atlas is my soul sister. Not only did she write this wonderful specimen of female-empowering, literary celebration, but she also has written a series of vegetarian cookbooks that I use in the kitchen religiously. One that I have yet to get a hold of, Vegetariana, apparently includes literary quotes dispersed throughout. Seriously. Soul sister. (Hey Nava, if you're reading this, let's have lunch!)

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf!!!! Here's the handy dandy link so you can go buy it right now.

Reading Recommendations: Like the sound of this book? Nava Atlas runs a blog called "Dear Literary Ladies," on which she posts quotes from literary ladies in response to female writers' questions. It's pretty cool.

Warnings: Reading this book may cause extreme excitement and may induce an inability to speak in an educated manner.

Favorite excerpts:
Here is a quote from Madeleine L'Engle that gives you some idea of the gems included in the book:
"When we write and are published, we become naked before people... it's hard for us to open ourselves to rebuff. I bleed from bad reviews, even though I have been very blessed in getting many more good reviews than bad reviews. But like every other writer I know, when you get ninety-nine good reviews and one bad review, what review stays in your mind? The bad one. And why? Because it awakens our own doubts. Did I really serve the work? Did I really hear it? Could she really be right and I haven't done as I should have? If you're going to write and be published, you've got to expect to have a few arrows thrown at you. They're going to hurt, and you're going to bleed. You're probably going to cry if you're like me. But that's just part of it and you have to learn."

And here's a snippet of Nava Atlas's writing:
"Today, women are freer from the social imperative to bear children, but I expect that more women writers than ever do choose to have them. Though it's never easy, it's good to know that women can rock the cradle with one hand and rock the world with the other."

What I'm reading next: Alfred and Emily by Doris Lessing