In a series of passionate, profound, often humorous, observations, Kelly Cherry explores the art of writing, its relationship to place, and its importance in our lives.
"I have never written a 'travel essay, '" Cherry says, but her travels inform her poetry and fiction. Now, seeking to understand what it means to write from any particular place, she charts a course in creative nonfiction prose. From Cleveland to Yalta, Wisconsin to Latvia, England to the Arizona desert or the Philippines, she writes as a way of knowing the world.
Along the way we become acquainted with the author herself, whose parents were string quartet violinists. They didn't go to church and, caught up in a rehearsal, sometimes forgot to put dinner on the table, but there was always music in the house (or the tenement flat). Cherry recalls warmly the stories of her childhood: "I don't know whether or not there's a God," her mother would say, "but I know there was a Beethoven, and that's good enough for me."
And always there was writing. As young writers do, Cherry earned her living at a variety of jobs--creating fictional histories of overseas orphans for their U.S. sponsors; editing and writing religious textbooks; a stint as a visiting professor in southwest Minnesota, where, in order to live in the dormitory, the only housing practicable for someone without a car, she had to enroll simultaneously as a student (she took astronomy). And in the evenings, the mornings, and other stolen moments, she wrote--as she does now--to create beauty from a specific kind of knowledge, the knowledge we acquire by creating beauty.
Cherry explores what it means to be a Southern writer and a woman writer, and discusses the changing face of the profession of writing. "To be a writer in America is to be marginal," she notes, adding that perhaps the best place for a serious writer to reside is "on the edge, outside looking in."
You seek to know what it means to be living where you are, and that search is, for a writer, a searching out of language. That quest is, for a writer, a questioning. For a writer, beauty and knowledge begin in the same place.
With its brilliant insights and beautiful language, Writing the World is an eloquent meditation on what it means to be a writer. Like Annie Dillard's The Writing Life and Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings, Cherry's Writing the World will be a lasting inspiration for anyone who has ever dreamed of being a writer.