Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Her sheer gifts as a writer... place her in a lonely league of achievement.
-New York Times
"A remarkable literary voice rediscovered."
"Howland creates stark and strange works of genius....This is a collection to savor, and Howland is an author to celebrate."
"This story collection reinstates a long-overlooked artist of live-wire incisiveness, shredding wit, and improbable beauty."
Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage restores to the literary canon an extraordinarily gifted writer, who was recognized as a major talent in the 1980s before all but disappearing from public view for decades. Bette Howland’s work was rediscovered near the end of her life when one of her books was found in the one-dollar bin at a used bookstore, about to be pulped.
With direct and powerful language in the tradition of Lucia Berlin, Kathleen Collins, and Grace Paley, Howland chronicles the tensions of her generation. She was an outsider; an intellectual from a working-class neighborhood in Chicago and an artist chipped away at by poverty and self-doubt. A brilliant observer, she captures the meanings of everyday life in its grit, humor, and splendor in portraits of criminal courts and public libraries; southern belles; funerals; the end of an affair. This collection, spanning the entirety of her career, reveals a writer whose vibrant presence on the page reasserts the eternal relevance of masterful literature.
Bette Howland (1937-2017) was the author of three books: W-3, Blue in Chicago, and Things to Come and Go. She received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1984, after which though she continued writing but did not publish another book. Near the end of her life, her stories found new readers when a portfolio of her work appeared in a special issue of A Public Space magazine exploring a generation of women writers, their lifetimes of work, and questions of anonymity and public attention in art.
Her words and observations shine like buried treasure, each story a glinty, multifaceted gem….This achingly beautiful book throbs with life, compassion, warmth, and humor… and creeps into your soul like the slushy-gray-yellow light of a wintry Chicago morning.
—Kirkus, starred review
Much like Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women(2015), this story collection reinstates a long-overlooked artist of live-wire incisiveness, shredding wit, and improbable beauty… Howland now takes her place in Chicago’s literary pantheon along with her mentor, Saul Bellow, Nelson Algren, Gwendolyn Brooks, Barry Gifford, Stuart Dybek, Joseph Epstein, and Peter Orner.
—Booklist, starred review
The energy in her fiction comes from a ferocious sense of engagement… Many of Howland’s tales are upholstered with the formal trappings of the life-cycle events of Jewish families and, at the same time, adorned with humor. The [title] novella’s tone harks back to the rueful drollery of such great Jewish storytellers as I.L. Peretz and Sholem Aleichem. As the Chicago writer Isaac Rosenfeld once wrote, such humor “loves the world from which it seeks to be delivered.” That’s as good a formulation as one can imagine for the literary sensibility of Bette Howland, whose sentences continue to beat with a stylish percussion and a glowing heart.
—Wall Street Journal
I’m tearing through my copy of Bette Howland’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage... It’s just grippingly good—in this case, an insanely sane mix of the hard-to-fight city in the ’70s and the accidental poetry of families stumbling through time.
A writer of unusual talent, power, and intelligence. Bette Howland has revealed from the start a vigorous, original voice, an incisive mind and an uncompromised lyrical vision.
–New York Times
With “Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage” she has found a new and higher level. This is clearly the work of a woman who has invested her life in her art, and who will, I think, be remembered as one of the significant writers of her generation.