Synopses & Reviews
This rich and revealing book, from the acclaimed, bestselling author of "Spending" and "The Shadow Man," is part memoir, part study of the shaping of a writer's voice. Using the example of her own life, Mary Gordon investigates the role that place plays in the formation of identity -- the connections between where we live and who we are, between how we experience place and how we become ourselves. With wisdom, humor, and intelligence, Gordon illuminates the relationship between the physical, emotional, and intellectual architectures of our lives.
Each of the eight essays focuses on a different place or series of spaces from an era in Mary Gordon's life: from her youth, growing up Catholic and on the "wrong side of the tracks" to her present life as an accomplished author and teacher at Barnard College. Gordon writes of the spaces -- both architectural and emotional -- that were central to her childhood: her grandmother's house, which stood at the center of life for the extended family and whose physical design helped Gordon understand her grandmother, her mother, and ultimately herself; her baby-sitter's house, where Gordon observed the domestic rituals of a family different from her own; and the mysterious house next door, which unlike her own space of "female habitation" was largely defined by the lives of boys.
Gordon also focuses on the significant influence of the more public locations she found when she grew up and wandered farther afield: the sacred spaces of the priests who were a kind of extended family to the Gordons; the alluring spaces of Barnard and the Upper West Side, which symbolized a life of intellect and affluence to which she aspired; and the city ofRome, where she began to mature as a writer. And she writes of one house that's been central to her adulthood and writing -- a Cape Cod, Massachusetts, rental -- and the significance of borrowing someone else's private space for her own introspections.
In vibrant, poetic prose, Mary Gordon navigates readers through these worlds she has inhabited, at the same time revealing herself with subtlety and style. In this stunning collection of linked essays, we come to see how integral places are to the lessons we come to learn -- about family, work, religion, love, and loss -- and the far-reaching power places ultimately have in influencing a life.
Mary Gordon, bestselling author of Spending and The Shadow Man, investigates the role that place plays in the formation of identity -- the connections between how we experience place and how we become ourselves. From her grandmother's house, which stood at the center of her childhood life, to a rented house on Cape Cod, where she began to mature as a writer, Mary Gordon navigates the reader through these spaces and worlds with subtlety and style. Wise, humorous, and intelligent, Seeing Through Places illuminates the relationship between the physical, emotional, and intellectual architectures of our lives, showing us the far-reaching power that places ultimately have in influencing a life.
About the Author
Mary Gordon is the author of the fiction The Company of Women, The Rest of Life, and most recently, Spending, as well as a critically acclaimed memoir, The Shadow Man. Winner of the Lila Acheson Wallace Reader's Digest Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the 1997 O. Henry Prize for the best short story, she teaches at Barnard College and lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
My Grandmother's House
Girl Child in a Women's World
Places to Play
The Country Next Door
The Architecture of a Life with Priests
Sanctuary in a City of Display
The Room in the World
Boulevards of the Imagination