A gathering of some of the best pieces by women we’ve read this week.
Suzanne Richardson’s “Oh Niagara!”, winner of The Journal‘s 2012 Nonfiction Prize (judged by memoirist Sonya Huber)
I heard Suzanne Richardson read “Oh Niagara!” at The Projects in Albuquerque this summer, and it has lurked in my mind ever since, the way that only the most resonant writing will do, a thought I almost had, a feeling I felt once–either in life, or so fully in the reading of it that afterwards it wasn’t clear to me which it was. In any case, in this essay about a visit to Niagara Falls, Richardson contemplates desire, marriage and aloneness, and where she thought she’d be by the cusp of thirty, compared to where she is: sharing a hotel room with her complicated parents. “I think about relationships. I think about the way the water at Niagara eventually wears down the limestone until nothing is left,” writes Richardson. “In 50,000 years, they predict there will be no falls. In 50,000 years, who knows where marriage will be. I think about my mom and dad, how they wear on each other, how they scrape against one another. I don’t want to scrape, but I also don’t want to be alone. Maybe abrasions are natural. Two things can’t be in the same place at once without friction, without a reaction.” —Molly
Joan Acocella’s “A Few Too Many” in The New Yorker
This is a perfect piece for the readjustment to the January grind after the holidays, but beyond that, it’s a fantastic example of how loads of research can read so smoothly and lightly on the page. My desk is heaped with books right now that I suspect would be dreary at best for the average reader (The Zapotecs of The Sierra Norte of Oaxaca!) and that I’m trying to transform into this airy, skipping prose full of fascinating details. Acocella doesn’t have it too hard here – it helps when all the research to be distilled relates to how to cure the reader’s pounding headache – but nonetheless, she’s masterful at organizing disparate academic studies, interviews, books and anecdotal evidence into a pensive and elegant essay, and at exploring the larger implications of the way Americans in particular think about alcohol. The section on different cultures’ words for hangovers, divided into those that reference the cause and those that reference the effects, is giddy – unless you have carpenters in your forehead. — Sarah
Elizabeth Royte’s “Fracking the Amish” in OnEarth.org
This is an interesting look into how gas company lease rights on Amish land are beginning to frac(k)ture the Amish community in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. The main subject an anti-fracking activist who lives in the County and who travels door to door informing Amish families of what the whole drilling process on their properties might entail. The piece reveals some obvious injustices, and is an interesting look at how the community is changing in light of them. It includes a lovely mini-documentary slideshow, too. — Amanda
Emily Rapp’s Poster Child
I recently moved to Columbus, Georgia, where my soldier husband is stationed with the Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning. Moving here has involved leaving my more-than-full-time job as an editor in New York City, and slowing down to the pace of the South. One benefit of this change is that, for the first time in years, I’m able to actually finish a book (that I’m reading for pleasure) in a single week. If you’ve read any of Rapp’s essays — like this stunning ode to her son in The New York Times — you know Emily Rapp has an unusual ability to state the hardest truths in the most graceful, almost saintly voice. She’s certainly earned that voice: she’s endured hardships that most of us will never have to. In Poster Child, her memoir about her lifelong disability and struggle to be perfect, the writing is so fluid, so quietly lyrical, it’s easy to forget how much work and sweat must’ve gone into the book, into the serious self-examination that makes such honesty as this possible. I can’t wait for her next memoir, The Still Point of the Turning World , to come out in March.
Molly – I loved Oh Niagara! Thanks so much for introducing it to me.