Category Archives: Sarton, May

Blank Days: Michael Harris, Solitude

There must be an art to it, I thought. A certain practice, or alchemy, that turns loneliness into solitude, blank days into blank canvases. It must be one of those lost arts, like svelte calligraphy or the confident tying of a wedding cravat. A lost little art that, year by year, fades in the bleaching […]

“Glad to Be Alive”: May Sarton, At Seventy: A Journal

Such a peaceful, windless morning here for my seventieth birthday–the sea is pale blue, and although the field is still brown, it is dotted with daffodils at last. It has seemed an endless winter. But now at night the peepers are in full fettle, peeping away. And I was awakened by the cardinal, who is […]

“Life is Never Absent”: May Sarton, Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing

In her 1974 introduction to Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, Carolyn Heilbrun comments on how little “organized acclamation” or “academic attention” May Sarton has received. I was curious to see if that had changed in the intervening decades, so I did a quick subject search on the MLA Bibliography and turned up 108 results since […]

“The Rough Rocky Depths”: May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude

“Plant Dreaming Deep has brought me many friends,” says May Sarton early in Journal of a Solitude, “…but I have begun to realize that, without my intention, that book gives a false view.” She worried that she had given an overly idealistic picture of her life alone in her restored New Hampshire farmhouse, which she describes […]

Weekend Reading: I laughed, I cried, I’d read it again!

And that was just the first book I read this weekend … I was right that David Copperfield not only gave me great pleasure while I was reading it but restored my flagging enthusiasm for reading more generally. I finished it over the weekend and loved almost every minute of it. The big setback for me is always […]

“There solitude became my task”: May Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep

I’ve owned Plant Dreaming Deep for a couple of years at least. It’s always funny, isn’t it, when a book that has just been sitting on the shelf suddenly catches your attention, as if its moment to be read has finally arrived? I sometimes think of it as a ripening process — though whether it’s me or […]

May Sarton, The Education of Harriet Hatfield

The Education of Harriet Hatfield is an awkward novel, struggling–or so it seemed to me–to maintain a difficult equilibrium between the human stories it tells and the didactic message those stories are designed to convey. The awkwardness is palpable, I think, because Sarton doesn’t trust her readers enough to infer her message from the stories, […]

‘Teaching a Person’: May Sarton’s The Small Room

Reading May Sarton’s The Small Room was a disorienting experience, at once intensely familiar and disconcertingly alien. The protagonist, Lucy Winter (is there a deliberate echo of Bronte’s Lucy Snowe?), is an English professor at a small women’s college. Brought in on a temporary appointment that she is led to believe may lead to a […]

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