Publication Date: May 7, 2019
A ferocious sense of engagement... a stylish percussion and a glowing heart.
-Wall Street Journal
Her sheer gifts as a writer... place her in a lonely league of achievement.
-New York Times
A master of silences, of the unsaid, of what cannot be addressed…. It is with the subtlest, and often humorous, touch of intimacy that Howland wounds her readers.
A compassionate, trenchant, and hilarious ethnographer of eccentricities and dysfunctions.
This story collection reinstates a long-overlooked artist of live-wire incisiveness, shredding wit, and improbable beauty.
A Booklist Best New Book
A Vogue.com Best Book
A Chicago Public Library Best Book of 2019 so far
"Loving, lacerating sketches." —Harper's
"This story collection reinstates a long-overlooked artist of live-wire incisiveness, shredding wit, and improbable beauty." —Kirkus, starred review
Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage restores to the literary canon an extraordinarily gifted writer, who was recognized as a major talent before all but disappearing from public view for decades, until nearly the end of her life. Bette Howland herself was an outsider―an intellectual from a working-class neighborhood in Chicago; a divorcée and single mother, to the disapproval of her family; an artist chipped away at by poverty and perfection. Each of these facets plays a central role in her work. Mining her deepest emotions for her art, she chronicles the tension of her generation. Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage introduces a new generation of readers to a wry, brilliant observer and a writer of great empathy and sly, joyous humor.
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 she 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.
An insanely sane mix of the hard-to-fight city in the ’70s and the accidental poetry of families stumbling through time. —Robert Sullivan, Vogue
Loving, lacerating sketches… With her flexible stance toward reality, her eye for the amusing, curious, minutiae of existence, and her tonal range, Howland recalls the short-story writer Lucia Berlin. —Abigail Deutsch, Harper’s
A compassionate, trenchant, and hilarious ethnographer of eccentricities and dysfunctions, 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
Howland’s insights into the shifting gender dynamics that would reshape, or at least disrupt, the patriarchy, are just one facet of the revolutionary nature of her work. Why then, did it disappear from the discourse? ...The recent celebration of fellow forgotten female artists, the short story writer Lucia Berlin, championed by Lydia Davis, or the painter Hilma af Klint, showcased at the Guggenheim, reminds us how necessary it is to restore these visionaries. —Jenessa Abrams, Guernica
That Bette Howland produced any books at all is a testament to her determination, for until she won the MacArthur she lived nearly always at or below the poverty line…. Yet Howland refused to abandon her dreams of a writing life. “She typed more than a hundred words a minute,” her son recalled, “firing her Selectric day and night through my childhood like a machine gun.” Given such circumstances, one might assume that Howland’s writing would present a kind of literature of grievance, but one would be wrong. The energy in her fiction comes instead from a ferocious sense of engagement…. A stubborn avidity crowds out despair.” —Donna Rifkind, Wall Street Journal
Like Bellow, Howland was a bard of Chicago, even at its most alarming…. A voice at once gritty and lyrical, despairing even while tenaciously holding onto hope. That Howland’s work is back with us again shows that hope won out, after all. —Diane Cole, Jewish Week
A Public Space might be responsible for the best lost-now-found title of 2019 with Chicago-born author Bette Howland’s dry but empathetic brand of fiction. Just like Eve Babitz and Lucia Berlin before her, the Guggenheim and MacArthur “genius” fellowship-winning Howland is now available for a new generation to discover. —Jason Diamond
Portfolio of work in A Public Space No. 23
New York Times obituary
Love Between Writers: Jacob Howland on Saul Bellow and Bette Howland in the Jewish Review of Books.
Afterword to Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage: Honor Moore on Bette Howland