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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Imagining the past in creative style


“Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking.”— Jessamyn West

Mary “Jessamyn” West, born on this date in 1902, was an American author of short stories and novels, notably The Friendly Persuasion.  Her stories, although shaped by her imagination, are loosely based on tales told to her by her mother and grandmother about their Quaker farm life in rural Indiana. 

It’s interesting also to note that her grandmother also was the grandmother of Richard Nixon and to observe the divergent paths the cousins took to fame.   While Nixon was serving as vice president, West’s best-selling novel became an Academy Award-nominated movie.    Then, her sequel titled Except for Me and Thee, another best-seller, came out at the same time that Nixon became President.  That book, too, became a successful movie.
Although she spent most of her life in California,                                
almost all of her 21 novels are about Indiana, a state in which she did not live and seldom visited.   "I write about Indiana because knowing little about it, I can create it from the images I’ve learned from my grandmother’s stories.  The past is really almost as much a work of the imagination as the future.”


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