Well it looks like Alice Walker has decided to give Salman Rushdie a run for the prize of most self-absorbed contemporary artist. Because we all want to know how she did it, she will publish her personal journal tracing her rise from poverty to mediocre novelist extraordinaire:

The author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Color Purple has a deal with Simon & Schuster imprint 37 Ink to publish a selection of her private chronicles in 2017. The book is called Gathering Blossoms Under Fire and will be edited by Valerie Boyd. Boyd wrote a biography of Zora Neale Hurston, one of Walker’s literary idols.

A spokesman for 37 Ink told The Associated Press on Friday that the book will also feature new essays from Walker that look back on her life.

The 69-year-old Walker has been keeping a diary for half a century, filling dozens of notebooks that track her rise from poverty in Georgia to international fame.

Maybe Walker’s memoir will be self-effacing, peppered generously with humility and wit, but I doubt it.

Pride, of course, is a problem for all of us, and it is a particularly acute one for the successful novelist who, as Walker Percy noted in Lost in the Cosmos, takes up a god-like position “outside” normal life, detailing its whats and whys.

What’s the antidote for this? Well, for Percy, it was community. He lived in Covington, Louisiana much of his life and, by many accounts, was actively involved in the lives of folks there. In “Why I Live Where I Live,” he wrote that Covington offered him both the seclusion from and the connection to reality needed to write. You could live in its pine trees, a former resident once observed, “and never meet your neighbor.” At the same time:

There are all manner of folk here—even writer can make good friends—indeed, an unusual and felicitous mix of types, Mississippi WASPs, Creole Catholics, Cajun Catholics, natives, pleasant blacks (who, for reasons that escape me, have remained pleasant), theosophists, every variety of Yankee. Any one group might be hard to take as a majority, but put together the lump gets leavened.

It seems to me that the social circle of many artists is rather homogenous, composed mostly of other artists, New York intellectuals, and so forth. And I wonder if meeting the local mechanic at the diner or the retired barber at church would go a long way towards reminding the novelist that she is not so special after all (as it did, perhaps, Percy), that what she does with words is, in some ways, not so different from what the mechanic does with his wrench or the barber with his scissors.


Prufrock is a daily newsletter on books, art and ideas, edited by Micah Mattix. It contains links to the best reviews and most worthy literary news items, a daily essay with relevant responses, and a little bit of literary smack. Best of all, it’s free! Subscribe today.