The Cost of Lunch, Etc.


Marge Piercy’s debut collection of short stories, The Cost of Lunch, Etc., brings us glimpses into the lives of everyday women moving through and making sense of their daily internal and external worlds. Keeping to the engaging, accessible language of Piercy’s novels, the collection spans decades of her writing along with a range of locations, ages, and emotional states of her protagonists. From the first-person account of hoarding (“Saving Mother from Herself“) to a girl’s narrative of sexual and spiritual discovery (“Going over Jordan“) to a recount of a past love affair (“The Easy Arrangement“) each story is a tangible, vivid snapshot in a varied and subtly curated gallery of work. Whether grappling with death, familial relationships, friendship, sex, illness, or religion, Piercy’s writing is as passionate, lucid, insightful, and thoughtfully alive as ever.

 

From Publishers Weekly:

 

With uncompromising emotional intensity, Piercy (Gone to Soldiers), the author of 17 novels, 17 volumes of poetry, and a memoir, captures the complex female experience in her debut short story collection. From the title story featuring an aspiring female poet who weighs the price of sex and poetry to a student’s disenchantment with her high school teacher (“Somebody Who Understands You”), Piercy maps the interior lives of women across generations, paying special attention to the socio-politcal environment that affects them. Her writing maintains a skillful detachment, limning moments of isolation between characters with palpable unease: “He is gentle. If he does not touch her with passion, neither does he hurt her. That is very important, not to be hurt.” Piercy, whose work is inseparable from her feminist politics, includes many characters (seven of whom are writers) who are suggestively autobiographical in their histories and musings, including a girl dying of rheumetic fever (“She’s Dying, He Said”), an anti-Vietnam War activist shuttling men to the Canadian border (“The Border”). Piercy is best at unraveling what she creates-turning an answer into a question in “Do You Love Me?,” and a soliloquy punctuated by silence in “Little Sister, Cat and Mouse.” Powerful in scope, the collection feels driven by an idea rather than a story, demonstrating Pierce’s understanding of how social constructs evolve in deeply personal ways.

Booklist:

Piercy’s latest short stories focus, as do her many novels, poetry collections, and earlier stories, on powerful female characters—women who are not always right, or sympathetic, or admirable, but definitely strong. The mother in “Saving Mother from Herself” is a hoarder coerced by her daughter into relinquishing her precious “collection” to the dump or local resale shops—and then changes the locks on her house, avoids her phone, and hits the yard-sale circuit with renewed vigor. A teenager in “Going over Jordan” stands up to her parents, gradually breaking away from the stifling confinement of their fundamentalist church. In “She’s Dying, He Said,” a woman looks back on the year in her childhood when she had German measles followed by rheumatic fever, and the doctor and her family gave her up for dead—except for her vigilant Jewish grandmother, who warded off the demons and nursed her back to health. Piercy homes in on her characters, mixing just the right amount of humor into her always insightful take on imperfect human relationships, in their many guises.

 

Rain Taxi:

In short stories, the reader has only a few pages to identify with the protagonist. This means that effective short stories require strong characters, concise plots, and memorable settings. It also means that it can be difficult for a novelist to make the shift to short fiction.  Happily, Marge Piercy has succeeded admirably with the twenty well-crafted tales in The Cost of Lunch, Etc., her first short story collection. A prolific novelist, poet, and memoirist, Piercy’s books include Woman on the Edge of Time, Gone to Soldiers, and The Hunger Moon. As in poetry, short fiction involves working within a limited space, and Piercy uses the skills she has earned as a poet to craft rich, succinct stories with quirky characters and layered imagery.

 

We Love This Book:

Marge Piercy is a great poet and this is clearly evident in the way she handles words. This is her first collection of short stories (although drawn from the work of a number of years) but the same economy of phrase, depth of emotion and touch of astringency you find in her poetry is here…

These stories bear the hallmark of the 70s feminist movement – not in terms of setting, there are stories set up to today – but in terms of the emotional tenet and confessional nature of the collection. Men do not on the whole come out of the stories very well but you do get to meet an amazing caste of vulnerable, gritty and generally fabulous women of all ages.

Many of the stories are funny, a few shocking, all are interesting and incredibly well-told. For a journey into the feminine psyche it is unparalleled.

 

Swans Commentary

May 4th, 2014

Many of Marge Piercy’s readers have been following her assorted writings across the span of their adult lives. We were young with her in the later 1960s and have snapped up, poked through, or otherwise taken note of her volumes ever since. So the notion that this new volume is a “debut collection” strikes an odd note. Then again, novelist and poet Piercy has not been doing much in the short-story vein all these decades. At points, The Cost of Lunch more than makes up for the lapse. This is a tough book, not by sentence structure or fancy words, but “tough” in the sense that her protagonists yield no ground, reject men after awhile, and deal sharply with women who are hopelessly male-oriented. Piercy’s favorite women are Piercy Women. And they are unforgiving.

 

Barnstable Patriot:

Short stories have never been my thing. If something captures my “reading attention” right away, I don’t want it to stop, and I find short fiction frustrating for that reason. Armed with this prior mindset, I hunkered down reluctantly with Marge Piercy’s new book, a short story collection called “The Cost of Lunch, Etc.,” and prepared for disappointment. Well, I sure was wrong on this one. These stories entrance and satisfy at the highest level.

I recently read an article that described the initial screening for a new movie release. At the end, a young audience member stands and says, “You’ve just captured my life.” That’s just what Piercy does – and what a good short story can do – by capturing a quick-flash photo illuminating some act or thought that rings true in our own personal experience.

 

MS. Magazine:

Piercy’s debut short-story collection heralds the beloved feminist writer’s return to fiction after a long hiatus. The stories, written in the fiercely honest style of her novels, follows everyway women attempting to make sense of thier world.

 

Praise for Marge Piercy:
“The author displays an old-fashioned narrative drive and a set of well-realized characters permitted to lead their own believably odd lives.“ —Newsday

 

“This reviewer knows no other writer with Piercy’s gifts for tracing the emotional route that two people take to a double bed, and the mental games and gambits each transacts there.“ —Chicago Tribune

 

“Marge Piercy is not just an author, she’s a cultural touchstone. Few writers in modern memory have sustained her passion, and skill, for creating stories of consequence.“ —Boston Globe

 

“What Piercy has that Danielle Steel, for example, does not is an ability to capture life’s complex texture, to chart shifting relationships and evolving consciousness within the context of political and economic realities she delineates with mordant matter-of-factness. Working within the venerable tradition of socially conscious fiction, she brings to it a feminist understanding of the impact such things as class and money have on personal interactions without ever losing sight of the crucial role played by individuals’ responses to those things.“ —Chicago Sun-Times

 

“As always, Piercy writes with high intelligence, love for the world, ethical passion and innate feminism.“ —Adrienne Rich

 

About Marge Piercy:

Marge Piercy is the author of seventeen novels including the national best-sellers Gone to Soldiers, Braided Lives, The Longings of Women, and Woman on the Edge of Time; nineteen volumes of poetry, and a critically acclaimed memoir, Sleeping with Cats. Born in center-city Detroit, educated at the University of Michigan, the recipient of four honorary doctorates, she has been a key player in many of the major progressive political battles of our time, including the anti-Vietnam War and women’s movements, and more recently an active participant in the resistance to the war in Iraq.

 

Product Details:

Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-496-0
Format: Hardcover Size: 8 x 5
Page Count: 176
Subjects: Fiction


Vida


VIDA is the most important novel yet written about the political ’60s and ’70s; it is at the same time a sensual and moving love story. Vida is full of the pleasures and pains, the experiments, disasters and victories of an extraordinary band of people.
At the center of the novel stands Vida Asch. She has lived underground for almost a decade. Back in the ’60s she was a political star of the exuberant antiwar movement — a red-haired beauty photographed for the pages of Life magazine — charismatic, passionate and totally sure she would prevail.

 

Now, a decade later, Vida is on the run, her star-quality replaced by stubborn courage. She comes briefly to rest in a safe house on Cape Cod. To her surprise and annoyance, she finds another person in the house, a fugitive, Joel, ten years younger than she, a kid who dropped into the underground out of the army. As they spend the next days together, Vida finds herself warming toward a man for the first time in years, knowing all too well the dangers.

 

Praise for the new edition from Bitch Magazine, June 2012:

 

When it was first released in 1979, the L.A. Times called Marge Piercy’s Vida the “Golden Notebook of the ’80s,” both a record of and reflection on the state of feminism at a historical turning point. In the 1960s American antiwar movement (the setting of half of Vida), feminist issues were considered second-tier, even by many of the women within the movement. Piercy embodies this contradiction in the stunning flesh and spirit of her title character, Vida Asch.

 

Unlike Piercy, who was deeply engaged with the student political movement of the ’60s but went on to dedicate herself to women’s issues in the following decades, Asch breaks from the mainstream movement to found a militant, anti-imperialist collective called Little Red Wagon (based on the true-life Weather Underground) that carries out dozens of corporate bombings and earns its members spots on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. The narrative is less focused on these militant actions than on their aftermath in the 1970s, when the bomb smoke has settled and the collective’s remaining members are political fugitives, dependent on a web of sympathizers and comrades—dubbed “the Network”—to survive.

 

Through Asch, we see what it was to be a feminist in practice, as she fights to remain a leader in an environment of machismo and objectification. She embodies political and sexual vigor. She channels both masculine and feminine power when they suit her cause and uses her sexuality as a tool. Yet she still has to reconcile her desire to be loved by men (and women) and welcome intimacy in a landscape of political and personal upheaval.

 

As a portrait of political struggle, Vida translates easily to modern times. The current Occupy movement draws on an amalgam of issues that the antiwar movement began to crystallize way back in the ’70s. And while feminism has moved up the ranks since Asch’s time, we still battle many of the same sidelinings in progressive movements.

 

Recommended If: You want to learn more about the ’60s political underground, but your eyes glaze over at the mere mention of Marx.

 

And, from the mainstream press:

 

“Real people inhabit its pages and real suspense carries the story along…VIDA of course means life and she personifies it…I found the book fascinating.”
—The Chicago Tribune

 

“A fully controlled, tightly structured dramatic narrative of such artful intensity that it leads the reader on at almost every page.” 
—The New York Times Book Review

 

“Marge Piercy’s strong, complex yet lucid political novel is a flame opus….a fire show: sometimes the explosion of a grenade, sometimes the glow of an oil lamp in a New England farm house, sometimes sparks from the friction of IRT subway wheels or the friction of passion between men and women or women and women, sometimes a veritable son et lumiere of the 60’s and 70’s…” 
—The Washington Post

 

“An epic story fueled with intense commitment and sensuousness…Piercy shows characters surviving…with integrity and tenderness…in a political milieu. VIDA may be to women in the 80’s what THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK was to women in the 60’s.”
—The Los Angeles Times

 

“Marge Piercy tells us exactly how it was in the lofts of the Left as the 1960s turned into the ’70s. This is the way everybody sounded This is the way everybody behaved. Vida bears witness;’
—The New York Times

 

“Very exciting. Marge Piercy’s characters are complex and very human
.”— Margaret Atwood

 


City of Darkness, City of Light


CITY OF DARKNESS, CITY OF LIGHT is my take on the French revolution. Why be interested?

 

First of all, modern politics began there, even the notions of “left” and “right.”

 

Second, modern feminism began right there, and many of the demands those women fought for are not yet achieved – although some have been.

 

Third, late 18th century France was a society that had some of the same characteristics as ours – the top was becoming ever richer, the poor were getting poorer, and the middle class were being squeezed with taxes the rich did not have to pay.
Fourth, the people who made the revolution and those who fought against it were lively, colorful, intelligent, willful and sometime sexy individuals. It was an extremely dramatic time and you might enjoy visiting it.

 

–Marge Piercy

 

Review of CITY OF DARKNESS, CITY OF LIGHT from THE LONDON TIMES, May 17-May 23, 1997

 

REVOLUTION HEROINES By Lisa Jardine

 

In Simon Schama’s massive historical chronicle of the French Revolution, CITIZENS, the chocolate maker’s daughter Pauline Leon and the burlesque actress Claire Lacombe make brief appearances. But in Marge Piercy’s meticulously researched and gripping tale of this turbulent period in French history, real-life women like these are made its central figures: unsung heroines from among the working people of Paris struggling to change the world.

 

In Piercy’s story, the lives of women surviving alone provide a poignant counterpoint to the power struggles and political intrigues of the political factions, Royalists and Cordeliers, Girondins and Jacobins. From the day she runs away from home at 15, Claire Lacombe is forced to battle a hostile world. Her life as a traveling player is one of abject poverty, but at least she does not have to put up with the kind of casual violence and subjugation experienced by her married friends.

 

Leon, left to run the chocolate shop alone through a series of awful accidents of the kind which regularly befall the unprotected, becomes the leader of the women who spark off the bread riots, and eventually joins those who invade Louis XVI’s palace to confront the king. It is the combination of deprivation and independence of spirit which bonds the two women when they meet. Their subsequent exploits as militant activists stem from a passionate shared sense of injustice and a determination simply to survive.

 

Piercy weaves these tales together with those of more familiar figures: Marat and Danton, Robespierre and Condorcet. Her revolutionary heroes are men with feelings and private lives, men who can acknowledge their own weaknesses and uncertainties at least in private. We find ourselves drawn into their intimate lives, sharing their desires and accidental choices, along with their processes of decision-making.

 

We slide with them from reasonable resistance to oppression into blind unreasonableness of the Terror. And, inevitably, the individuals with whom we have shared hopes and fears, whom we have seen triumph briefly over their local adversities become in their turn the victims of show trials and guillotine.

 

The world that Piercy conjures up is utterly believable, right down to the all-pervading, nauseatingly foul smells of the city, the appalling squalor of urban poverty, the casual violence and unreflecting cruelty towards the underclass.

 

So convincing is her fiction that I find it hard not to believe that this is truly how it was, particularly as regards the crucial part played by the women. Surely it was these bands of heroic women who precipitated and sustained the French Revolution? Surely Claire Lacombe, the actress, really is the figure of Liberty shown bare-breasted leading the people in the Delacroix painting reproduced on Piercy’s cover – the figure that Piercy has her play in the revolutionary tableau in the cathedral of Notre Dame? Did Pauline Leon survive her days of glory organising the women of her quarter into the Revolutionary Republican Women, to marry a soldier and retire to the country?

 

It is a tribute to Marge Piercy’s wonderful novel that these are questions to which I feel I badly need to know the answers.

 


Sex Wars – A Novel of Gilded Age New York


A Novel of the Turbulent Post-Civil War Period

 

In the tradition of her bestselling World War II epic Gone to Soldiers, Marge Piercy once again re-creates a turbulent period in American history and explores changing attitudes in a land of sacrifice, suffering, promise, and reward.

 

“This is a big American story…harsh and enthralling. Marge Piercy is not just an author, she’s a cultural touchstone. Few writers in modern memory have sustained her passion, and skill, for creating stories of consequence… ”Sex Wars,” a resonant tale of public and private lives during a time of staggering societal shifts.”
The Boston Globe

 

“Any novel that starts out by tweaking men for not knowing how to find a lover’s clitoris gets my rapt attention. And sustains it throughout in this spirited romp through the Gilded Age, with some of the era’s most colorful and accomplished characters. Here are the riveting stories of brilliant feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, capitalist moneybags Cornelius Vanderbilt, notorious free lover Victoria Woodhull, and her nemesis, the one-man traveling vice squad Anthony Comstock. This is an historical novel of important events and currents in our history—yet one in which the bracing similarities between that scandalous era and our own are never far from the surface.”
—Alix Kates Shulman

 

“This rich novel set in post–Civil War New York stars a true-life cast of characters that includes Victoria Woodhull, the spiritualist turned first woman to run for the U.S. presidency; passionate suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton; the aged Cornelius Vanderbilt, who sits atop a $100-million fortune as he tries to make contact with his dead son; and Anthony Comstock, a crusading moralist who dedicates his life to outlawing pornography and “obscene objects made of rubber.” As they each vie for different kinds of sex-based power, the consequences of their actions echo from the halls of Congress to Manhattan ‘s back alleys.”
―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

 

” Triumphantly candid in its approach to sexuality, this is a message novel in the best possible sense, spectacularly engrossing and truly moving…In this mesmerizing, sexy, and forthright historical novel, she portrays heroic women determined to control every aspect of their lives, from birth control to finances. Piercy homes in on Cornelius Vanderbilt throwing his money and weight around as the first great wave of European immigrants arrives; savvy businesswomen make their fortunes running bordellos and performing abortions; the women s rights movement coalesces, and Anthony Comstock launches his fanatically censorious crusade.”
Booklist

 

“A panoramic novel that pits the fledgling women’s-rights movement of the 19th century against a growing conservative religious movement [and] paints the politics of the post–Civil War era in broad, bright strokes.”
―Kirkus Reviews

 

READ ENTIRE REVIEWS

 

Post-Civil War New York City is the battleground of the American dream: an era of vast fortunes and crushing poverty — an era surprisingly like our own, in which some of the most infamous characters in American history collide over the issues of sexuality, censorship, women’s rights, and privacy.

 

In a sprawling fictionalized history written in the epic style of Piercy’s critically acclaimed Gone to Soldiers, Sex Wars unfolds through the alternating viewpoints of Victoria Woodhull, notorious advocate of sexual freedom and candidate for President of the United States; Anthony Comstock, feared morals crusader who fought to eliminate sexual expression; the free thinking suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton; and Freydeh, a spirited young Jewish woman from Russia who takes up condom-making to support herself and her unconventional family.

 

We also meet Susan B. Anthony, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Madame Restell, Jay Gould, Big Jim Fisk, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Ward Beecher, Frederick Douglas, Horace Greeley, Ulysses S. Grant, and many lesser known, but no less passionate soldiers on the battlegrounds of American political history.

 

Marge Piercy on the writing of Sex Wars, and the Power Point Presentation

 

Read the First Chapter of Sex Wars

 

 


The Third Child


Piercy’s “Sixteenth riveting novel…A remarkable and provocative page-turner”
-Booklist

“A biting, contemporary take on Romeo and Juliet and an acidic commentary on Washington political culture.”
-Publishers Weekly

In the prominent political family of the Dickinsons, ambition comes first, and Melissa, the third child, has always felt she came last. Going away to college at Wesleyan offers a chance at love and a life free from her brilliant mother’s constant scrutiny.

 

Blake, a child of mixed race and apparently unknown parentage, has been reared by lawyers whose defense of death row cases has brought them toe-to-toe with Melissa’s father, the former governor of Pennsylvania, who is now a U.S. senator.

When Melissa meets Blake at college, their passion is immediate. Yet Blake is keeping a dangerous secret from Melissa, one that could destroy them–and their families. Dealing with themes of love, honesty, identity, and the consequences of ambition, this thoughtful, beautifully written story is a remarkable and provocative page-turner.

From American Library Association Booklist, 9/1/03,
Featured in the UPFRONT: ADVANCE REVIEWS section:

“Piercy is adept at fashioning provocatively topical plots and vivid characters in order to explore the psychological complexities of families, relationships between men and women, and various forms of social injustice. In her sixteenth riveting novel, Melissa Dickinson is the unloved third child in a prominent political family, and the bane of her beautiful WASPy mother, a consummate politician’s wife, who is militarily well organized and ruthlessly ambitious for her handsome, stain-resistant husband, formerly a hard-hearted governor of Pennsylvania, currently a senator with an eye on the White House. Melissa is nothing like her lovely older sister, politico-clone older brother, or easygoing younger brother. Introspective, embarrassingly voluptuous, and profoundly enraged by her mother’s chilling devotion to creating the perfect family image, she is infinitely relieved to go away to college, where, inevitably, she falls in love with a guy who embodies everything her parents despise. Seemingly African American, Blake is the secretive and manipulative adopted son of two famous Jewish liberal lawyers. But there is nothing predictable about Piercy’s extraordinarily magnetizing characters or this novel’s bold and galvanizing story, which raises tough questions about one’s sense of self and the many faces of compassion, loyalty, and power.” –Donna Seaman

For YA and Middle Readers: A young woman’s struggles with family, insecurity, and sexuality will have strong teen appeal.

From Publishers Weekly, 11/10/03:

“A privileged, lonely 19-year-old takes refuge in a doomed love affair in this 16th novel by Piercy (Three Women, etc.), a biting, contemporary take on Romeo and Juliet and an acidic commentary on Washington political culture. Melissa Dickinson is the neglected, needy third child of Republican senator Dick Dickinson and his cold, scheming wife, Rosemary. In her first year at Wesleyan, she meets Blake Ackerman, a classmate who is both dark-skinned and Jewish, qualities sure to distress her parents. Melissa is ripe for the attention Blake lavishes on her after he discovers that she is Dick Dickinson’s daughter. He tells Melissa he’s the adopted son of Si and Nadine Ackerman, liberal criminal lawyers whose defense of death row cases has been a thorn in Dickinson’s side for years, but doesn’t immediately inform her that he’s also the mixed-race son of Toussaint Parker, a convicted “cop-killer” whose execution Dickinson, a former Pennsylvania governor, failed to stay. They fall into an intensely symbiotic relationship fueled by sexual compatibility (“Sometimes she felt as if they were rooting, digging through each other’s bodies trying to sink deeper and deeper within”) as well as by Melissa’s resentment of her emotionally inaccessible family (“she had wanted to punish them for their long disregard of her”) and Blake’s desire for vengeance, which includes hacking into Melissa’s parents’ computer to find evidence that might destroy “King Richard’s” career, but ends up destroying much more. Piercy’s explosive resolution affirms that the most treacherous traps are those set by ignorance and innocence.”

The Interview: Publishers Weekly Talks with Marge Piercy
The Politics of Star-Crossed Lovers

PW: What inspired you to write about the star-crossed lovers in your 16th novel, The Third Child?
Marge Piercy: I was eating in Georgetown, and there was a mother and daughter—the mother was very elegant—and she was berating her daughter for the way she was dressed in a deadly tone, and that stuck in my mind. Also, someone I know who comes from a well-to-do family and has never felt good enough, and then [there’s] Romeo and Juliet. I always like playing with literary precedents.
PW: Your” Juliet” is the emotionally neglected Melissa Dickinson, daughter of Dick Dickinson, a prominent politician, who falls in love with Blake Ackerman, the adopted, mixed-race son of one of Dickinson’s adversaries. Why did you choose Melissa as the single narrator?
MP: Because if you told it from the standpoint of Blake, he knows who he is, so things don’t gradually unfold. If you’re in the view-point character, you can’t legitimately withhold the information. In most of my novels I use multiple viewpoints. [But in this book,] I preferred to be in Melissa’s viewpoint, a little behind her.
PW: Was it difficult getting into the mindset of a 19-year-old?
MP: It took a little while. I’m on college campuses a lot, giving readings and workshops. I went to Wesleyan, spent some time there, just talking to students, to get a notion as to how things are now. The dating scene is entirely different. It seems like there’s very little in-between. You’re either with somebody or it’s meaningless.
PW: What influenced the chilling characterizations of Melissa’s power-obsessed mother, Rosemary, and Alison, her devoted assistant?
MP: One of the things that interests me as a feminist is how some women totally subsume themselves. They don’t give up power. They don’t give up getting their way. Rosemary’s basically a very traditional woman with modern needs. [She and Alison] are women who only act through other people, but they act in their own way with tremendous power through the other people they serve.
PW: How long did it take to write this book?
MP: Two years. I’ve used Philadelphia in previous novels and will probably use it again. Washington, who knows? The novel I’m writing at present is set in the 19th century shortly after the Civil War and most of it occurs in New York City. I never do sequels. When I finish a book; I go on to something else.
PW: Does your poetry ever feed your novels’ development?
MP: They don’t really feed each other. Mostly the poetry comes out of my life or the people around me in a very direct way. Writing novels is a way of entering very different characters from yourself and looking at the world through their eyes.
PW: How do politics affect the construction of your novels?
MP: All fiction has a political dimension because fiction embodies attitudes that the writer has about what’s male and what’s female and what ought to be; what is permissible to do with other people; who are the good people; who are the bad people; who deserves to win and lose; what does living mean; what does losing mean; who is it permissible to make fun of? These are all attitudes that are built into every piece of fiction. All fiction contains political ideas.
PW: Are political issues as important to you as they were when you first began writing?
MP: Yes, because you see society being torn apart. You see people’s lives being undermined. What’s going on upsets me a great deal.
–Interview By MELISSA MIA HALL

The Third Child
A Novel by Marge Piercy
Published by William Morrow, An Imprint of Harper Collins
ISBN: 0-06-621116-6
352 pp. / $24.95 ($38.95 Canada)
Publication: December, 2003

 

 


Summer People


In her sensual new novel, SUMMER PEOPLE, Piercy exchanges her panoramic canvas for a strikingly intimate one, focusing on the lives of three dedicated artists in a small Cape Cod community.

The “scandal” of the relationship between Dinah, Susan, and Willie has long since faded among the locals. Like all the yearrounders in the town where they have lived for ten years, the three tolerate a seasonal migration of summer people – like a cloud of outrageously plumed tropical birds come to chatter, to feed, to mate. For Dinah, an avant-garde composer, the invasion of these part-time visitors means that her peace will be shattered and her beloved woodlands despoiled. But Willie, a sculptor whose art is unfashionably political, makes his living renovating their cottages. And Susan, Willie’s wife, a fabric designer and passionate seeker of high style, eagerly awaits the arrival of summer people – especially Tyrone Burdock, the charming, manipulative financier across the pond-who offer her a warmly inviting world of elegant meals and sensitive conversation. Piercy explores that margin where artists mingle with
their patrons, where class and status bleach to invisibility in the blaze of sun on white sand, where behind the dark glasses, it is hard to tell who is conning and who is conned.

 

As always, Marge Piercy has created characters true to life among them Tyrone’s self-absorbed and adoring daughter, Laurie; Jimmy, her lover, who believes that sex is the grease that will cause any wheel to turn for him; Itzak, a brilliant musician torn between his desires for freedom and for stability; and Toby, “the Captain;’ who has lost his boat and his house to the IRS but means to scramble into success through any back door left unlatched. Above all, Piercy has beautifu1ly captured the texture of her characters Relationships to each other and to their times.

 

Entertaining and sharply focused, Marge Piercy’s SUMMER PEOPLE is a powerful modem parable of the struggle for a grounded and committed life, in which one has rewarding work, love and friendship, a sense of continuity with the past, and hope for the future.

 

“… the author display’s an old-fashioned narrative drive and a set of well realized characters permitted to lead their own believably odd lives… she can serve a meal, arrange a funeral, or make a Christmas in convincing detail.”
Thomas Mallon, NEWSDAY

 

“This reviewer knows no other writer with Piercy’s gifts for tracing the emotional route that two people take to a double bed, and the mental games and gambits each transacts there.” Ron Grossman, Chicago TRIBUNE

 

“…the relationship between the three individuals affords a perfect means of studying the tenuousness of any bonds of love. Piercy constructs artful novels that skillfully couch her intelligent observations of human behavior.”
Brad Hooper, BOOKLIST

 


Three Women


Known by millions of readers for vivid research and characters that live long after the last page is turned, Marge Piercy has breathed life into history and rendered societies past, present and future as real as the ink on the page. In her newest novel, Piercy’s focus is absolutely contemporary and frighteningly real. Told from the viewpoint of three unforgettable women — Beverly, the union organizer; her daughter, Suzanne, the litigator who can negotiate everyone’s problems but her own and Suzanne’s daughter Elena, burdened with a violent past before she ever grew out of childhood, Piercy weaves a generational saga about a tragedy that every one of us, man and woman, will face.

 

Suzanne Blume has survived two marriages, sent two children through college and is enjoying her first sexual relationship in over ten years. Her teaching duties at a Boston university allow her just enough time to take on important cases and most Saturdays she manages a few hours with her closest friend. When her elder daughter Elena loses yet another her job and moves back home, she’s not pleased but she has to admit, life at forty-nine has yielded some unexpected pleasures. But one day a messenger appears in court to announce that her mother, a woman of legendary independence whom Suzanne has never felt truly accepted her, has been rushed to the hospital.

 

Intertwining the lives of three generations of contemporary women, Marge Piercy brings her talents to bear on some of the most pressing questions confronting us today: How do we nurture children who cannot possibly live up to the dreams we create for them? How can we choose between our own needs and those of the people we love? Can we learn to become a family again after years of creating independent lives?

 

Told with the rich prose of a writer The Philadelphia Inquirer recently labeled “one of the most important poets of our time,” and the careful, detailed attention of a master story teller, Piercy’s Three Women is a novel as riveting as it is real and leads us to a place where some of our worst fears meet opportunity and a new chance at real love.

 

Chosen as an Alternate Selection of The Literary Guild
A Barnes & Noble Mass Market Paperback Bestseller

New York Times Book Review
October 31, 1999

Marge Piercy’s engrossing new novel introduces us to Suzanne Blume, an idealistic but pragmatic law professor. Approaching 50 and the mother of two grown daughters, Suzanne is enjoying her busy and productive life when, nearly simultaneously, her stroke-weakened mother, Beverly, and her unsettled older daughter, Elena, arrive on her doorstep in need of expensive and time-consuming attention. Until her stroke, Beverly had been an old-style leftist who majored in men and minored in child-rearing. Elena is a lost soul who is still recovering from a violent episode in her teens. Suzanne must also deal with Jake, a man with whom a cozy on-line flirtation has suddenly become an in-the-flesh reality. ”Three Women” is told serially from the points of view of Suzanne, Beverly and Elena, a technique that works quite well. The reader learns firsthand, for example, that Elena believes her beloved grandmother is ”the only one I’m any good for. Or who thinks I’m good for anything at all.” By the end, emotional resolution is reached on the common ground where so many of us live today: ”caught in the middle and pulled all ways.”

 

Advance Praise for Three Women

 

“This is a lovely and unforgettable novel, filled with wisdom and deep complexities of love between three women in the same family. It will break your heart. I couldn’t put the book down. The story is by turns fascinating, painful, rich in texture and personality, and very exciting. The range of understanding and emotion is remarkable. Piercy has written dozens of wonderful books throughout a distinguished career, but this is surely one of her very best.”
— John Nichols

 

“Like all of Piercy’s work, Three Women stretches ordinary thinking. Her characters and the scene are vividly imagined, and the novel is deeply satisfying.”
— Marilyn French

 

“In her new novel, Three Women, Piercy reveals the feel and grit of contemporary family life with all the sweep, intensity, and high drama that are her trademarks. I expect that all three of these bold, fascinating women will remain with me for a very long time.”
— Alix Kates Shulman

 

“Three Women moved me profoundly. It could be a mirror for many women today in all its authenticity and compassion. Marge Piercy’s work is always wonderful, and this is Piercy at her very best.”
— Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

 

Harper Torch Mass Market Paperbacks
384 pages
ISBN 0061014672

 


Storm Tide


Storm Tide
Storm Tide is a novel of lost dreams, fiery politics, and consuming passion.

 

At a very young age, David Greene, the guy with the incredible pitching arm, saw his dreams of playing in the majors almost fulfilled. But he never made it out of the minor leagues. Now, divorced, with a son he’s not allowed to see, David returns to the shores of his hometown, the small Cape Cod hamlet of Saltash, once a local hero, now a failure. There he meets Judith Silver, a beautiful, brilliant lawyer, and her husband, the eminent professor Gordon Stone – an imposing presence much older than Judith, a living legend now dying of cancer. These two prominent members of the community befriend, nurture, and eventually push David to run for political office. As David considers the proposition, he and Judith fall into a passionate affair. It is a liaison that does not go unnoticed by Gordon, who, curiously, tacitly allows it to unfold. Gordon is more concerned with the election at hand – which pits his candidate, David, against the powerful man who virtually runs the town. Into this explosive mix, a young woman appears – a single mother at the end of her emotional rope.

 

Crystal desperately needs David, and her son provides a seductive way into David’s heart. Yet, caught between two women, and two volatile triangles of desire and devotion, David bears witness to a heartbreaking tragedy that seems as inevitable as the push and pull of ocean waves. In Storm Tide, Piercy and Wood have produced a hypnotic story that joins richly imagined characters and a vivid New England setting with a page-turning plot.

 

Now in Paperback
Ballantine Readers Circle Edition with an Interview and Readers Guide
Fawcett Books
The Ballantine Publishing Group
ISBN 0-449-00157-1
$12.95 USA / $19.95 CANADA

Reviews of Storm Tide

 

The New York Times Book Review – August 23, 1998
by Ruth Coughlin

When young David Greene leaves his hometown on Cape Cod, he’s headed for what he imagines will be a big career with the Chicago Cubs. Fifteen years later, having failed in both baseball and marriage, he returns to the picturesque village of Saltash, seemingly a man with neither ambition nor purpose. Then along comes Judith Silver, a brilliant and gorgeous lawyer who is married to Gordon Stone, an eminent sociologist, known for his many marriages and his liberal politics. Stone, who is terminally ill, urges Judith not only to have an affair with David but also to persuade him to run for a seat on the Board of Selectmen, going up against wily Johnny Lynch, an old-time pol who has controlled the town for decades. Much to his astonishment, David wins the election, later becoming involved with a wildly seductive and troubled you woman who works for Lynch. Narrated from the alternating perspectives of David, Judith and Johnny, “Storm Tide” is the collaborative effort of the husband-and-wife team of Marge Piercy, a poet and novelist, and Ira Wood, a novelist, playwright and teacher. But the book itself speaks with one powerful voice, moving inexorably toward tragedy even as it offers a hint of redemption.

 

The Los Angeles Times – June 24, 1998

Churning Up a Coastal Town’s Demons
by Thomas Curwen

“What did it feel like to die this way?” we’re asked to imagine at the beginning. “They said her hair was encrusted with seaweed and crabs… They say she must have struggled to free herself, that as she grabbed at the grass her efforts only increased the suction of the mud. They still call it an accidental death.” Welcome to Saltash, Mass, a small town made instantly smaller by local elections. David Green just ran for selectman against a school teacher set up by town boss Johnny Lynch. Green was recruited by lynch’s foes and had an affair with the wife of Lynch’s longtime nemesis. But that was before he met Crystal Sinclair.Sex and politics, as we know, are a combustible mix. Find them in a small town and you have the making of a firestorm. Place them in a novel and you have the makings of a cliché. It’s all a matter of how you control the burn, and Marge Piercy and Ira Wood know how to play with fire. Wood, in previous novels, proved himself a deft, if sometimes uneven, storyteller, and Piercy, in her poems and novels, is an impassioned, if sometimes rhetorical, stylist. In “Storm Tide,” they’ve dropped all the sometimes – es and delivered a confident page-burner. Green and Lynch run into each other over the dike that Lynch built 30 years ago to keep back the tides and drain the land, turning a shellfish field into a housing tract. Its opponents want part of the estuary restored; Lynch wants more homes. Green’s undecided, and Piercy and Wood wisely show that politics, no matter the slant or civility, do nothing to ease fear and fear sharpens the acrimony. A Jew in a WASP’s nest, Green’s moment of fame was as the Sandy Koufax of the local high school baseball team. Recruited by the Cubs, he was let go after a disappointing round in the minors. At 32, broke, divorced and estranged from his son, David returned to Saltash, a little adrift. Old dreams also haunt Lynch. Gone are the days when his authority went unquestioned, when respect and consent were the price for a cord of wood or a driveway plowed to your door, and he blames Gordon Stone for devaluing his stock. Stone lives apart from the town and is dying of lung cancer. His fourth wife, Judith Silver, is half his age, and together they enlist David in the cause – and a little more. At first, David’s wary of consensual adultery, but Piercy and Wood make a case for it. “We do what we want,” Judith explains. “Everybody’s honest. Nobody gets hurt. What is the problem?” the question’s smartly drawn, coming from a woman who loves her husband, a man worried about her future when he’s gone. But the entanglement drives David into the arms of Crystal sinclair, prodigal daughter of Saltash, home now with her 8-year-old-son and more baggage than she can carry. “I’m your anything girl,” she eagerly tells David.Sex is played like a weapon in “Storm Tide,” and david’s a perfect target. A pawn in Crystal’s bed, he forgets Judith and throws any doubt into the campaign, and by the time the good people of Saltash chose their selectman, Piercy and Wood have turned the town inside out. On the night of Rosh Hashanah, a storm tide rises, and the next day, a body is found in the marsh. The death is ruled accidental, but everyone played a role in this tragedy.What threatens to go adrift in “Storm Tide” is deftly weighted to the histories that Piercy and Wood provide their characters. Few steps are mistaken. Crystal’s desperation becomes the story of a mother, frightened for her son, struggling to hold on to a world that threatens to wash away. And a simplistic dialectic – the debate over the dike – grows into a picture of economic uncertainty and material doubt.In an afterward, Piercy and Wood, who are married, describe the experience writing “Storm tide.” Collaboration, they tell us, “requires being able to detach from your own preconceptions and actually listen to the other person’s motives.” It is a process that makes “Storm Tide” a satisfying blend of sex and politics. If only real life were so honestly realized.

 

Kirkus Reviews – April 15, 1998

Two noted writers (Piercy’s many novels include City of Darkness, City of Light, 1996, and The Longings of Women, 1994; Wood is the author of Going Public, 1991) combine to write a seamless coming-of-age story in which a man must confront his past, his enemies, and the results of a tragic accident before he can finally settle into a new life. The story of David Greene, a native of Saltash, Cape Cod, is narrated in turn by David; by Judith Silver, a lawyer, and his advisor and lover; and by Johnny Lynch, the old politician who runs the town. While David is from Saltash, he has never really been a part of it; the townspeople, fearing and distrusting outsiders, had little to do with his Jewish family when he was growing up and still keeps David and summer people like Judith and her dying husband Gordon, a noted academic, at arm’s length. Johnny, in fact, has played cunningly on this fear of outsiders to keep himself in power. David has now returned to Saltash after his marriage and his career in baseball have both ended. His life seems to be going nowhere until Judith and Gordon suggest he try politics. He does, and in the process begins to fall in love with Judith, who now practices in Saltash, and also finds himself being dangerously attracted to troubled single mother Crystal, who, with her lonely son Laramie, insinuates her way into his life. But Johnny fights dirty, and David, though elected, has to deal not only with the two women who love him but with Johnny’s sly machinations. A storm and horrible accident help David realize that he can face down Johnny and that Saltash-and Judith-mean something essential to him. A wise tale, in a vividly rendered setting, of men and women learning to live and love more fully.

 

Booklist – April 15, 1998
by Brad Hooper

Piercy’s latest novel was written in partnership with her writer husband, but the reader would never know that their book is the result of a collaboration. It is a carefully, artfully, and more relevant to the process of its creation, seamlessly told story about a man named David Greene, who, after his career in professional baseball, returns to his Cape Cod hometown, Saltash. There, David runs a landscaping business with his sister; he gets involved with a married woman, a successful lawyer, who is the wife of a distinguished older man who is dying of cancer; and he is pulled into running for local selectman. Then a fragile single mother comes into his life, and David stumbles into an affair with her, too; he comes to have great affection not for her but for her son. His self-admitted “tangled sex life” leads to the death of one of his mistresses, but not before the reader is totally engrossed in this stylish depiction of small-town politics, sexual vulnerability, insecurity of the heart, and good old-fashioned guilt.

 


Braided Lives


Marge Piercy, whose earlier novels have chronicled the female experience in the turbulent ’60s and 70s, now turns her considerable skill and passion to the 1950s in this portrait of women in transition from repression to freedom.

 

Through the intense friendship between Jill and her cousin, Donna, we see and feel what it was like to grow up in Detroit in the ’50s and go to college when the first seeds of freedom were sown. Through Jill’s childhood friend Howie, and her relationships with Mike and Peter, we come to understand the danger that sex posed when abortions were illegal, making the outcome of a chance encounter of a night of love a matter of life and death. And, through Marge Piercy’s brilliant, thought-provoking novel, our lives are illuminated.

 

“A delicious binge of a book…it’s impossible to ignore the generous spirit of this feast.”
— San Francisco Chronicle

 

Braided Lives is a big, rich book. This writer just gets better and better. She is allowing more flashes of humor and more generosity…her sure novelist’s hold on making a good story, her poet’s eye for careful detail.. BRAIDED LIVES is a novel that tries not to simplify but to clarify…and by so doing, it adds a great deal to our under-standing of how things came to be as they are, and what some of yesterday might have meant.”
–Marcie Hershman, The Boston GLOBE

“It is a novel that bursts with felt life–immediate and universal–and pulsates with a rare generosity of spirit towards its characters, men as well as women.”
— Helen Yglesias

 

“This book demonstrates the maturation of Piercy’s native talent for story-telling…we would have to look to a French writer like Colette or to American writers of another generation, like May Sarton, to find anyone who writes as tenderly as Piercy about life’s redeeming pleasures – sex, of course, but also the joys of good food, good conversation, and the reassuring little rituals like feeding the cats, watering the plant, weeding the garden.”
–Judith Paterson, Washington Post Book World

 

“No writer I know has so thoroughly explored the changing, despairing, frightening, and complicated world of a young college girl becoming a woman.”
–The Washington Post

 


Small Changes


SMALL CHANGES is the explosive novel of women struggling to make their place in a man’s world.

 

Intelligent, sensual Miriam Berg wanted to love and be loved. She traded a doctorate for marriage and security, only to find herself hungry for a life of her own-but terrified of losing her husband.

 

Shy, frightened Beth ran away from her parents, her husband, her way of life. She ran to a new world, different ideas and a different kind of love. . . the love of another woman.

 

“Beautiful, inspiring, realistic, essential.” -Boston Phoenix
“She sustains her hard driving prose throughout this long, completely absorbing novel…It’s a big rich novel that one hoped would emerge from the new women’s consciousness…When you read it you are caught up in the excitement of watching Marge Piercy’s talent explode all over the page, and she never loses control of the explosion.”
John Alfred Avant, LIBRARY JOURNAL

 

“A powerful and wonderful combination of poetry, passion and politics…This is the first novel to depict heroines as well as casualties of the sex war … sharply witty, deadly serious, visionary.”
Phyllis Chesler

 

“… a novel that will be read, reread and talked over as Lessing’s have been, but the voice and characterization are Piercy’s own. The book has a wonderful generosity of detail, tone and character; it has the range and inclusiveness of old-fashioned fiction yet its insights are radical. I have never seen so lucidly represented the differences between what women and men want out of sex, conversation, relationships of all kinds. More than anything this is a novel in which the women characters, instead of being depicted as numbed or living under a `bell jar’, retain the vitality and intelligence of their feelings and insist on them even when they lead to risk and defiance.”
Adrienne Rich

 

“This groundbreaking novel teams with women in transition and their mothers, fathers, lovers, husbands, children, employers…SMALL CHANGES speaks to the totality of a woman’s experience and as such is unquestionably unique…one must feel gratitude for the amity and emotional intensity of the intimate human concerns in this passionately life-oriented novel.”
Myrna Lamb, Washington POST

 


The Longings of Women


Marge Piercy gives us her most involving, heartbreaking, and ultimately life-affirming novel yet. Through her three unforgettable female characters – women whom we recognize in ourselves, our friends, and our chance acquaintances – Piercy reveals a deep, often secret, part of a woman’s life: the need for a place in the world that cannot be lost to the vagaries of relationships, work, or the economy.

 

Leila Landsman has long known that her theater-director husband has affairs with young actresses he casts. But it takes the death of her best and oldest friend for Leila to confront how little is left of her marriage. Adrift with this new knowledge, she decides to investigate a subject that, as an academic expert on abused women, she might consider too sensational: the notorious case of Becky Burgess and her teenage lover, who are accused of murdering her husband.

 

Becky Burgess grew up longing to escape the overcrowded, shabby house where her fisherman father and gentle mother raised seven children in undisguised poverty. She studies the women she sees on television: the way they speak, dress, act. She knows she’s every bit as smart and pretty as they are. Once she makes the rest of the world notice, the rewards will come her way, rewards she will never, ever, willingly give up. A Becky Sharp of the malls, she seeks a way up and into the light of the media.

 

Mary Burke does well by her ladies. As a cleaning woman to the affluent of the Boston area, she never fails to be on time, meticulous, respectful. What none of her clients know, and must never guess, is that at sixty-one, Mary is homeless. Once she lived as they do, until her husband “traded her in” and her children made lives that don’t include her.

 

To outward appearances so different, Leila, Becky, and Mary share the same longings: to be seen for who they are, to be valued, loved, but most of all, to have a physical and emotional home that can’t be taken away. And as their dramas unfold, Marge Piercy probes their minds and hearts sharing the frustration, rage, determination, and joy that thread through every woman’s life.

 

Leila, Becky, and Mary are a triumph – characters who keep us turning the pages, and linger in our minds long after their stories are told.

 

“Marge Piercy can seat 15 strangers around a Thanksgiving table, and by the time dessert is served you’ll know all of them. Her paragraph on Leila’s interview techniques for talking with battered women is a miniature master class. These characters are so authentic, you’ll want to shake them: ‘Leave that creep!’ ‘Get a shrink!’ “Work at Legal Seafood!’ ”
— Patricia Volk, New York Times Book Review

 

“It would be a public service to distribute THE LONGINGS OF WOMEN to anyone facing the flu or a long train journey. Marge Piercy’s 11th novel id addictive, engrossing and remarkably successful in replacing the reader’s reality with its own. And yet this examination of modern American life is not an escape into fantasy but a window on the world of hard facts.”
— Anna Mundow, New York Daily News

 

“What Piercy has that Danielle Steel, for example, does not is an ability to capture life’s complex texture, to chart shifting relationships and evolving consciousness within the context of political and economic realities she delineates with mordant matter-of-factness. Working within the venerable tradition of socially conscious fiction, she brings to it a feminist understanding of the impact such things as class and money have on personal interactions without ever losing sight of the crucial role played by individual’s responses to those things.”
— Wendy Smith, Sun-Times, Chicago

 

“Like a painter with favorite colors, Piercy has themes and elements she returns to in every book. In THE LONGINGS OF WOMEN, she combines them in three entwined stories that are the most interesting and consistently balanced she has ever written.”
— Susan Hall-Balduf, Detroit Free Press

 

Mary, Leila’s homeless cleaning lady, is a character to haunt your dreams. Mary’s plight generates the novel’s anguished suspense.
— Kennebunk, ME Coast Star

 

“Every new novel by Marge Piercy is cause for celebration. THE LONGINGS OF WOMEN is a rich tapestry filled with passion and rage and real love, a book that gets under your skin and stays with you long after the last page has been turned.”
— Alice Hoffman

 

“This is about the best account I’ve yet seen of the condition of women in America during the recent past….It vindicates what every woman over fifty already knows only too well, and presents young women with a chance to gain wisdom without actually aging….I don’t know when I’ve been so fascinated by a novel…What a book!”
— Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

 

“Hurrah for Marge Piercy! Her novels are rich with fascinatingly complex, sexy, and decent human beings; her prose is always insightful and profoundly compassionate. THE LONGINGS OF WOMEN is no exception to this rule. It is a spellbinding and passionate tale full of mystery, erotic tension, and secret yearnings. Piercy’s world is as terrifying as it is timely; it is also touching to the bone. You will not forget Mary, Leila, and Becky, nor the surprising forces that drive their lives through trauma, love, and even murder, to redemption. Piercy is a great poet and a wonderful novelist, and THE LONGINGS OF WOMEN is as good as everything else she has written.”
— John Nichols

 

“I very much enjoyed Marge Piercy’s THE LONGINGS OF WOMEN. It is full of her special brand of tough compassion. If I was a bit surprised at her answer to What Do Women Want, I also had to admit there was much truth in it.”
— Marilyn French

 

 


He, She and It


Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award
for Best Science Fiction in the United Kingdom

The time is the middle of the twenty-first century. The place is what used to be North America, now Norika: a vast toxic wasteland dotted with huge environmental domes, enclaves of the monolithic corporations-the “multis”-that have replaced governments and whose employees have become an indentured citizenry; the far fewer “free towns,” independent settlements where the remarkable technology of the age has not yet been turned against the individual; and the “Glop,” the overwhelmed stretches of megalopolis where nine-tenths of the Norikans live – violent, festering warrens unprotected from the poisonous atmosphere and ruled by feuding gangs and warlords.

It is in this world that Shira Shipman struggles to find her place. Shira is a woman who longs for the traditions of her upbringing even as she breaks from them; a woman whose life has been “shattered into bright dangerous shards” by the loss of custody of her young son. Now, as the novel opens, she is returning to Tikva, the Jewish free town where she was raised. . . but she finds no easy respite in going home. Her part in the creation of an illegal cyborg – more nearly human than any created before, given life in order to protect the town, but truly brought to life by Shira’s deep and startling involvement with it – places her, her young son and her elderly grandmother at the center of a deadly battle for information, the most important commodity of the time. If the cyborg is man-built, it is woman-programmed, and that woman has been a lifelong rebel and sexual iconoclast. 
Read the First Chapter

 

As Shira’s adventure unfolds, we hear, as well, a tale told in the voice of an extraordinary artist and Shipman, a feisty and sensual mystic. It is the story of a great kabbalist in Prague’s Jewish ghetto in the year 1600 who, to protect the people from attack, defied the laws of the land and of nature and gave life to a golem. Interweaving these two stories, Marge Piercy creates a vast physical and emotional tapestry, playing the ancient against the futuristic, the mythical against the technological and the most fundamental relationships-child and parent, grandchild and grandparent, woman and man-against the most startling: human and that which is made by human hands.

 

HE, SHE AND IT is a feat of imagination and story-telling: at once a remarkable love story, an extraordinary vision of a future we are galloping rapidly toward and a profoundly moving exploration of our indelible ties to the past.

 

“Piercy’s vision, in addition to being broad and serious, is playful. This novel reaches its apex as a dangerous vision when it retells the story of manhood. Piercy depicts a more than human man-made man who is programmed by women. HE, SHE AND IT, which describes Yod the perfect lover/father and house-work-free domiciles, is a woman-centered fantasy. HE, SHE AND IT, a ground-breaking example of Jewish feminist fabulation, is a triumph.”
–Marleen Barr, AMERICAN BOOK REVIEW

 

“Marge Piercy has written a marvelous story of love and robots…. Piercy adds family and religious values to the cyberpunk core of multinational corporations and information pirates. The result is one of the best novels of the year.”
–Fred Cleaver, Denver POST

 

“Also in evidence is Piercy’s customary skill in focusing on the minutiae of human thought and interaction, and it is this attention to inner psychological conflict (even in the case of our two golems) that pulls the book out of its sci-fi trap and makes its world of tomorrow ominously real.”
–Alison Bass, The Boston GLOBE

 

Yod is.. “the most articulately introspective “monster” in fiction since Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN. It is these Golem sequences that Piercy’s sophis-tication is most manifest. They reflect Malkah’s concerns as much as they do Yod’s. They prefigure, becoming meta-fictional commentary on the novel in progress, and ultimately they give HE, SHE AND IT a mythic depth rare in science fiction. It is a powerful and memorable mixture, worth the attention of science fiction devotees and people who have never read a science fiction novel..”
–Darrell Schweitzer, The Boston PHOENIX

 

“Piercy’s vision of a post-greenhouse-effect, nuclear-blasted world interlaced with the Prague ghetto of 1600, and the efforts of certain people to stay human in both, is threaded with the questions: What is it to be human? … What does `life’ mean?… What are the limits of creativity? As always, Piercy writes with high intelligence, love for the world, ethical passion and innate feminism.”
–Adrienne Rich

“Stand aside William Gibson and Bruce Sterling! Body of Glass (He, She, and It in the United States) is a combination of future history and cyberpunk that is a match for Neuromancer in excitement and breadth of vision, but it is also a far greater novel. Not only is it better written, with a less artificial plot and deeper characterisation, but it also works through the consequences of its ideas in a far more sophisticated fashion. Shira has lost custody of her son to her husband, and has left the Y-S “multi” that employs her to return to her home “free town”. One of the town leaders, feeling danger threatening, has built Yod, an illegal cyborg (full artificial intelligence in a human shaped vehicle) to defend them. But Y-S is after Yod… The narrative contains enough political intrigue, biologically enhanced assassins and data piracy to keep the cyberpunk fans happy, but it also has some serious meat in it. It tackles head-on some of the philosophical and ethical dilemmas likely to be involved in the development of artificial intelligence. Interlaced with the main story is a secondary narrative. This is the story (as told to Yod by Shira’s mother Malkah) of a Jewish Rabbi in 17th century Prague who creates a clay golem to defend his people from a threatened pogrom. This sub-story is both simpler and bleaker, but has the same compelling drive as the main story, and the two complement one another superbly. I can’t recommend Body of Glass too highly. It is one of the best science fiction novels I have ever read, though Marge Piercy’s earlier Woman on the Edge of Time perhaps had more of a bite to it. Now I have to go and find the rest of her novels…
Danny Yee’s Book Reviews

 


High Cost of Living


“SOMETIMES I THINK WE’D ALL BE BETTER OFF WITH MORE JOGGING AND LESS SEX.” .

 

For Leslie, the heroine of this searching novel, the cost of living – and loving – is getting higher and higher. First of all, she is miserable for having lost her lover, Valerie, to another woman. And she has begun to doubt just about everything about her life.

 

Now, she is involved in a strange erotic triangle with Honor, an adolescent virgin who has romantic ideals and Bernie, a homosexual street hustler trying to settle down. Leslie and Bernie both want Honor. They a1so want each other. But all Honor wants is a little spice in her life.

 

Here is a powerful, searing novel of three young dreamers caught up in a lifestyle they can neither accept nor change.

 

“Piercy goes over her subjects with a fine-tooth comb and provides food for thought about some of our directions, feelings and values.”
–PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

 

“…one of the more unusual love triangles that has appeared in recent fiction…It is not just that these three are believable and oddly appealing – it is also that one willingly identifies with, even admires, Leslie, however alien she may be to the reader’s own sense of identity…Piercy has written a novel as ambiguous and fascinating as life itself.”
–Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times

 

“…as important to understanding what is of portent in our times as Hardy’s JUDE THE OBSCURE and Dreiser’s AMERICAN TRAGEDY were to theirs.”
–Tillie Olsen

 

“…realism lightened and much speeded up…a human, complex and truthful work…it has formidable virtues: an intense sense of character, a direct dignity, and genuine weight. It neither snoozles up to you nor gushes nor complains, and that’s rare. By all means, buy it… It’s an impressive achievement.”
Joanna Russ, FRONTIERS

 


Fly Away Home


Successful Boston cookbook author Daria Walker, whose greatest pleasures are her home and family — and who loves her husband deeply — is devastated to learn he wants a divorce. Now she must put her life back together. But as she strives to understand the life she is losing, Daria must face the shocking truth behind the smooth facade of her prominent attorney-husband, Ross — and recreate her own values, her own sense of family, and herself.

 


Gone to Soldiers


With this magnificent epic of World War II, Marge Piercy moves into territory that has long been the exclusive province of such writers as Norman Mailer, James Jones, and Herman Wouk. Never before has a leading woman writer written with such authority about the cataclysmic events and passions of war. Sweeping across the globe from the United States to Europe, from the North African campaign to New Zealand, from Japan to Palestine, GONE TO SOLDIERS brilliantly re-creates the atmosphere of the war-time capitals: the sexual abandon, the luxury and deprivation, the terror and excitement.

 

GONE TO SOLDIERS interweaves the stories of ten remarkable characters: Louise Kahan, a New York divorcee and writer of romances turned war correspondent… her ex-husband Oscar, a man who cannot let go of women, involved in intelligence for the OSS . . . Daniel Balaban, late of Shanghai and the Bronx, whose mission is to crack the Japanese codes. . . Bernice Coates, who escapes life as a servant to her father to fly fighters as a Women’s Air Force Service Pilot. . . her brother Jeff, a painter who parachutes into Nazi- occupied France to fight with the Resistance…Zachary Barrington Taylor, for whom war is the most exciting game, and seduction a close second… Jacqueline Levy-Monot, who leads Jewish children over the Pyrenees to safety and fights valiantly with the maquis… her sister Naomi, a troubled adolescent discovering her identity in a tangle of sex and racial violence… their cousin Ruthie Siegal, a touching young woman who tries to keep alive her love for Murray; a Marine in the Pacific war, while working on an assembly line in Detroit. . . . These are just some of the characters who wage memorable and passionate public and private battles, as war casts them into their ultimate dreams and nightmares, daring them to act out their brightest and darkest fantasies.

Evoking the brutalities endured by those struggling to survive, in foxholes, in the camps, on the home front, or with partisans, GONE TO SOLDIERS is a shattering and unforgettable reading experience.

 

“This book deserves to have an entire book written about it…a landmark piece of literary prose…in Piercy’s hands, that war is new again, in its awfulness, its quirkiness, the idiosyncratic peculiarities…this could be the most thorough and most captivating, most engrossing novel ever written about World War II.”
— Carolyn See, LA TIMES

 

“Piercy’s war takes on universality of a sort that Hemingway’s war, or Mailer’s war, could never have achieved…she has mastered a huge subject, dismantled a centuries-old sex barrier and widened our perceptions of both war and literature. All this in a good beach book makes GONE TO SOLDIERS a victory by any standards.”
— NEWSWEEK

 

“…what Marge Piercy has achieved with her stunning 703-page opus, GONE TO SOLDIERS, is unquestionably literature — a novel that moves as easily from battlefield to home front as it does from female to male perspective…Piercy is as much a poet as a novelist, with a poet’s gift for language and capturing the moment in essential details…Piercy has brought that poetry into GONE TO SOLDIERS, the sweep of change, loss, and growth, the feel of life going on — the lives that will eventually become our own.”
–Dorothy Allison, VILLAGE VOICE

 

“For many readers of this urgent and powerful recapturing of World War II the whole immense tapestry will seem to be a tale told long ago suddenly come alive and made as vivid as Star Wars. For readers like me who were alive at the time, it will come as a bringing together of the whole human tragedy, the clarification of a human past we cannot forget and often failed to encompass when it was happening. I found it deeply moving and redemptive and am grate-ful for the imaginative genius who has `brought them back alive’ forever.”
–May Sarton

 

“Despite the tragedy that is the central drama, the book is rich and vivid with the texture of experience. Page after page of exquisitely described moments accumulate…One is stunned and shaken by the terrain of this book and, as if by the same hand that dealt us this blow, given a precious insight into what it is to be committed to the living.”
–Susan Griffin, San Francisco EXAMINER

 

“A sense of urgency blows through GONE TO SOLDIERS, strong enough to carry even showers of details behind it…GONE TO SOLDIERS is a literary triumph for Marge Piercy and a landmark volume in the literature of war. As few novels have done, it takes into account the way that war affects old people, women, children, even animals and plant life, as well as the ‘official’ participants in battle, the soldiers.”
–USA TODAY

 

“No other American writer can match the breadth of Marge Piercy’s vision. Not since John Dos Passos’s US.A trilogy has a group of individual portraits so seamlessly blended together into a single broad canvas of human experience”
–Chicago Sun Times

 

“An engaging, original, courageous novel. ‘’
–New York Newsday

 


Woman on the Edge of Time


With a power and truth that rock us — and through the medium of a woman who becomes vitally alive, important, and dear to us — Marge Piercy moves between a revelation of our present society and a startling twin projection of the possible future.

 

The woman “on the edge of time” is Consuelo (Connie) Ramos. A Chicana in New York City, she is in her mid-thirties, once beautiful, now worn and disheveled, once a college girl, now a pickpocket, both loving mother and “child abuser” (her child taken from her), a mourning widow (unmarried), a heroically sane woman labeled insane.

 

With her we experience the New York where Latinos live today without money or hope of it; where food, cleanliness, order, and peacefulness are Sunday luxuries; where life-force translates as violence. And with her we experience the mental hospital where, held against her will, she is faceless, invisible to the attendants, social workers, doctors. . . where whatever she says and does is received and recorded as “aggression,” as “bad patient behavior,” until suddenly she is valued at last as a potential subject for a frightening neuro-electric experiment on which hundreds of monkeys have already been “used up.”

 

And with her — as Connie’s determination grows to fight her way out of her powerlessness — we enter the two worlds of the possible future to which she is summoned. In one – the playful androgynous society of Mattapoisett, a hundred years from now, when the human person is paramount-we experience an enchanting, though imperiled, world of ceremony and civility that nurtures the infant, early frees the child from the possessiveness of its (three!) parents, puts technology to the uses of life, and encompasses death itself as part of the great adventure of living. And at its gate, the threatening armies of the other – the bleak and grotesque – future, in which the dividing line between person and thing has finally been eroded.

 

WOMAN ON THE EDGE OF TIME is at once a heightening of the novel of realism and a brilliant prophetic fable. It is Marge Piercy’s triumph to take us so wholly into the very being of a stranger that we come to perceive her fate as inseparable from our own.

 

“Both absorbing and exciting,”
—The New York Times Book Review

 

“An ambitious, unusual novel about the possibilities for moral courage in contemporary society.”
—The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

“A fiercely brilliant writer. . . a novel which on several levels is as chilling, provocative and at least as controversial as SMALL CHANGES.”
— Jane Howard

 


Going Down Fast


As a blighted neighborhood is invaded by a university — an institution that promises to bring new life — the people who live there are forced to go along with too many changes, too fast. There is Anna, a woman living through a succession of losses — marriage, job, home, and lover. And Rowley, a blue-eyed soul singer whose greatest limitation is his belief that he is powerless. Together with Leon, an underground filmmaker, and Caroline, a beautiful woman with a dark and desperate secret, they watch the progress of the wrecking ball, hoping, as always, for something better . . . maybe even love.

 


Dance the Eagle to Sleep


Originally published in 1970, Marge Piercy’s second novel follows the lives of four teenagers in a near-future society as they rebel against a military draft and “the system.” The occupation of Franklin High School begins, and with it, the open rebellion of America’s youth against their channeled, unrewarding lives and the self-serving, plastic society that directs them. From the disillusionment and alienation of the young at the center of the revolt to their attempts to build a visionary new society, the nationwide following they gain, and the brutally complete repression that inevitably follows, this is a future fiction without a drop of fantasy. As driving, violent, and nuanced today as it was 40 years ago, this anniversary edition includes a new introduction by the author reflecting unapologetically on the novel and the times from which it emerged.

 

“Here is somebody with the guts to go into the deepest core of herself, her time, her history, and risk more than anybody else has so far, just out of a love for the truth and a need to tell it. It’s about time.”
– Thomas Pynchon

 

“DANCE THE EAGLE TO SLEEP is a vision, not an argument…. She writes it down on bandages, and suddenly we are aware of our wounds. What a frightening, marvelous book!”
— John Leonard, The New York Times