Wednesday, April 20, 2016

DIMESTORE by Lee Smith

When I was at Malaprop's on Sunday to hear my students read, I treated myself to a copy of Lee Smith's new book -- a collection of essays about her life as a writer.

The essays are full of memory-evoking detail: from her father's dimestore in Grundy, Virginia (Who else remembers pastel Easter chicks and tiny turtles with roses painted on their shells?) to her mother's recipe box (the secret ingredient in her mother's pimento cheese is Durkees!) 

 Smith recounts her early attempts at writing -- writing about stewardesses and orphans and evil twins  (I, too, have written about evil twins and I'm very sorry) until at nineteen she heard Eudora Welty read and suddenly realized that her own best subject matter was the small world she already knew.

As a long time fan of Smith's writing and as a southern woman of the same generation, I've always felt I 'knew' Lee Smith -- her writing voice is so sure, so true, so clearly based on personal experience. These essays expand that knowledge -- dealing lovingly and forthrightly with her father's bi-polar condition, her mother's 'nerves,' and her son's schizophrenia. 

Small wonder that Smith talks about writing's ability "... to give a recognizable shape to the chaos of our lives."

This is a wonderful book  -- especially for fans of Smith who'd like to see the soil from which her writing grew and for writers, in general, to give a glimpse into the process of one of our finest novelists.  And since it's Lee Smith, it's just plain downright good reading.

 (More about Lee Smith and her work HERE.)


katy gilmore said...

Love this quote about writing: "... to give a recognizable shape to the chaos of our lives."

Barbara Rogers said...

I've loved her writing for years. Can't wait to read this one too!

Frances said...

Vicki, I am embarrassed to admit that I have yet to read a Lee Smith book; this might be because we are from similar roots.

Now that my retirement is giving me more hours for reading, I will be adding some Lee Smith to my growing stack of books. Which one would you suggest I read first?


Vicki Lane said...

FAIR AND TENDER LADIES is, I think, her best. FANCY STRUT and FAMILY LINEN are two others I love for the comedy. They're all good.

Frances said...

Thank you so much, Vicki!

I've made notes.