The Paris Review

A Space for Bette Howland

Bette Howland. Photo courtesy of Howland’s estate.

In nice chairs, on a stage, sit five North American writers born in the thirties—three are dead, but only one was lost: Bette Howland, born in 1937. They’re seated younger to older, which has Howland next to Raymond Carver and Joyce Carol Oates, both born in 1938, and further down, Margaret Atwood and Toni Cade Bambara, born in 1939. Neither of the two others dead is as out of print as Bette Howland has been until the publication tomorrow of Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage. I love the very literary story: In 2015, Brigid Hughes, editor of the magazine A Public Space, finds W-3, Howland’s 1974 memoir, in a sale bin at a used bookstore, reads everything she wrote, and plans for Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage as a result. A press is founded, A Public Space Books. Publication of W-3 will be next—placing Howland next to Maxine Hong Kingston and Vivian Gornick as progenitors of the resurgence of memoir.

Wherever you position Bette Howland’s absence, the vacancy is glaring—she has the kind of large

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