A few years ago, when I was in a glut of activity, Bonnie suggested I read An Unknown Woman by Alice Koller. I heard her suggestions and tucked it away deep in my brain, probably never to resurface. Then, Bonnie found the book at a book sale at, of course, the book store where I was working – I couldn’t refuse then. So I read this book, and if you’ll pardon the cliche, it changed my life.

The book is about Koller’s solitude, a solitude she intentionally imposes after receiving her PhD in philosophy from Harvard. She rents a little cottage in Nantucket and spends her days alone – writing, reading, walking, thinking, not thinking. It’s a book of reflection, not action, inwardness, not outward relationships.

Everytime – like now – when I come to a place where I feel the need to step back and slow down (thanks, by the way, for all the support for my need to do this) – I think of this book and imagine myself alone on Nantucket (although I haven’t been to Nantucket, so I’m probably imagining Newport or Charleston or some other beach), spending the days wandering. Sounds nice about now?

So pick it up if you can – the book is out of print now, but Powell’s, Amazon, and Alibris all seem to have copies. If you read it, let me know what you think. This is me passing along Bonnie’s recommendation and hoping it means as much to you.

Cover of Koller's Unknown Woman

Now for some good links:

For all your Jhumpa Lahiri fans, Powell’s just posted this wonderful interview with her. Here’s a snippet:
Jill: In earlier interviews, you’ve said you find writing very difficult. I’m curious if it’s becoming any easier.

Lahiri: No, I think it becomes more difficult. With each book, it’s become more difficult. I think the process grows more familiar, and there’s a comfort in that. I’ve grown more familiar with the ebb and flow, the ups and downs, the rush of ideas, and the strange moments of stasis where it doesn’t seem to be growing in any discernible way or progressing. It becomes easier in that it becomes easier to bear.

But it is inherently for me a very difficult, demanding thing, one that I love the challenges of — I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it. Though the process becomes a little easier, certainly the writing itself doesn’t. I think if anything it’s become harder, just because one wants to grow with every book, and one wants to not make the mistakes of the previous book, and try to get it a little bit better and go a little bit deeper and get a little cleaner.
For another bit of Lahiri, visit Kate’s book blog.

If you visit the Powell’s site for the Lahiri interview, just check out the left-hand sidebar – there are so many interviews with fabulous writers that you could read all day.

Nabakov fans, it looks like we’ll have a new book soon. Woo hoo!!

Doris Lessing is profiled in the Telegraph. My favorite line: “‘ll be pleased when I’m dead. That will let me off worrying about all these wars.” Amen to that! (Thanks to BookNinja for the link.)

Finally, a piece of art from Museo de San Marco in Florence, where Fra Angelico painted and Savanarola prayed. This monastery is beautiful – the cells are lined with these gorgeous frescos, the courtyard is spectacular, and the illuminated manuscripts – sigh. If you’re in Florence and don’t want to tolerate the heat to see Michangelo’s David (which is gorgeous and worth it, but still), just walk a few blocks to the Museo and marvel.
Fra Angelico's – The Mocking of Christ by Fra Angelico