remembered rapture (bell hooks)

Some of the collections of essays about writing on my shelves are permanently creased to mark the essays that I enjoy, tighter sections on the book’s binding marking those essays which I only read once.

My copy of this collection, remembered rapture, is well-worn throughout. It is like that perfect album that you could listen to straight-through.

In her introduction, “rapture from the deep”, hooks explains that she is writing from the perspective of a cultural critic and a literary scholar and a creative writer. And, so, some of the essays are academic, others playful, and some celebratory.

Perhaps it is this combination of styles which makes the volume so satisfying, the sense of listening to her speak from a lectern alternating with the sense of sitting together at a kitchen table.

“In many of these essays I grapple with the issue of public work as an intellectual in and outside the academy and that space of writing that is always intimate, private, solitary.”

What I find remarkable about this is not just that her pieces are affecting regardless of the shift in tone and voice, but that they continue to reach me across the years.

When I first discovered this collection, I had not read Zora Neale Hurston or Ann Petry or Toni Cade Bambara — though I had read Toni Morrison and hooks’ Bone Black — but I read those essays all the same. (Quite likely they were — at least partially — responsible for nudging those writers onto my TBR list.)

And, on re-reading the essays, I realize that I still haven’t read Lorraine Hansberry, or Gwendolyn Brooks’ Maud Martha, or Jessie Fauset’s Plum Bun, or Frances Harper’s Iola Leroy, Kristing Hunter’s The Survivors and The Lakestown Rebellion.

hooks appeals every bit as strongly to the reader in me as she does to the writer in me. But, paradoxically, turning to remembered rapture is something I do as a writer first, so the rest is just a bonus.

“I began to write in my girlhood. And I am writing still, moving swiftly into midlife with a body of words I have made into books beside me. No passion in my life has been as constant, as true as this love. No passion has been as demanding. When words call, to answer, to satisfy the urge, I must come again and again to a solitary place — a place where I am utterly alone.”

I find it hard to stop there. I want to include the entire passage.

And that is the same sensation with which I love moving through this collection.

It’s Terrific Stuff for Writers.

hooks, bell. remembered rapture (Henry Holt and Company, 1999)

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