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A Solemn Pleasure: To Imagine, Witness, and Write

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  79 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Firecracker Award Finalist
Poets & Writers “Best Books for Writers” selection
Literary Hub “Best Books about Books” selection
Image: Art, Faith, Mystery “Top Ten of the Year” selection

In an essay entitled “Spirit and Vision” Melissa Pritchard poses the question: “Why write?” Her answer reverberates throughout A Solemn Pleasure, presenting an undeniable case for both the power
Paperback, 192 pages
Published May 12th 2015 by Bellevue Literary Press
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Jul 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Melissa Pritchard is a marvel. She is a writer of award-winning short stories and novels. This collection of personal essays is a pleasure. Actually not all are personal. The topics have no unified theme--from her dachshund, with background on its origin and what about those short legs, to her close connection with William, a former Sudanese slave, the saddest story ever. The art of writing is a constant theme as she teaches writing at Arizona State. An exploration of many diverse topics.
In A Solemn Pleasure, Melissa Pritchard paraphrases a Sufi parable for one of her essays titled “Elephant in the Dark.” To me it captures one of the most compelling thematic arcs of her collection: the slipperiness of art or art’s ‘many-sidedness’:

“Some Indians kept an elephant in a dark room. Because it was impossible to see the elephant, those who wanted to know something about this exotic beast had to feel it with their hands. The first person went into the darkness and felt the elephant’
Nancy Eister
Aug 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this author and book because of an essay she wrote about Walt Whitman, and the transcendent purpose of writing, which is to witness how our ordinary reality is suffused with spirit. An amazing writer I had never read! If you write or want to, read this book.
Kara Clevinger
Aug 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Melissa Pritchard’s collection of essays A Solemn Pleasure: To Imagine, Witness, and Write is an homage to language, the medium of the writer. It’s different from other writers writing about writing in that she unabashedly engages the spiritual—and not in the hippie dippie way that Natalie Goldberg does in Writing Down the Bones (which I adore)—but in a full-on mysticism kind of way, in a Walt Whitman poet as prophet kind of way. The essay titled “Spirit and Vision” draws heavily from Whitman an ...more
Apr 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A Solemn Pleasure is a fantastic book of essays. From a brief stay in London, to the death of the author's mother, and the story of a child slave, each one makes you think. I laughed, was frankly envious of one, and cried at several others. My favorite essay might be Doxology, about the author's Dachshund; though A Room in London is a close second.

One thing I loved about this book is that the writing is up close; personal. I felt less like I was reading a book of essays, and more like I was havi
Suzi Baum
This book gives me immense hope for writers and for my writing. Pritchard's words are a challenge and a dare to be brave and honest, eloquent and excellent. I highly recommend this book to people who write or love essays about real life lived daringly. And this book is hilarious at certain points. And poignant. xoS ...more
Aug 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Melissa Pritchard is an accomplished writer who will dazzle you with these essays. She's all over the map in their scope from dachshunds to death, her knowledge goes deep. ...more
Jul 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Shared as a gift by a writing friend. Reminders reminiscent of Rilke, to live the questions, that writing is a question of thinking, feeling, and taking part in the profound and sacred act of witness. I love the foreword with the anecdote of the bum whose sign says, "Help. I am somebody. Please see me!". Even if the sign had not used those words, they have the power that a writer understands will reach a reader.
In the first essay, A Room in London, she ends with her feet on a small prayer rug f
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a book for writers. It is beautiful and wise. A Solemn Pleasure is an essay collection published by Bellevue Literary Press. It is the first book published in Bellevue's The Art of Essay series. A must-read for writers and for all who love weiner dogs. ...more
Madeline W
Dec 31, 2019 rated it liked it
These essays were missing something for me
World Literature Today
"In her new book, A Solemn Pleasure, Melissa Pritchard notes that “The ancient Latin root for pilgrim is per agrum, one who walks beyond known boundaries,” succinctly comparing a writer to a wandering pilgrim—becoming a witness to her time and a recorder of her age. The literature of testimony, according to the author, should be the writing about pain and the healing of that pain, because the profession of writing is 'a profound vocation of healing.'" - Yang Jing

This book was reviewed in the Jan
Kelly Lynn Thomas
Sep 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
I absolutely loved some of these essays, and couldn't stand others. It's not that they were poorly written, it's just that I didn't care about the subject matter (like the one about the dog--I love dogs but I just didn't care). The one she wrote about the female US soldier and the Sudanese refugee were fantastic and heartbreaking, and the ones she wrote about writing were sharp and insightful.

It was still a weird sort of mish-mash of topics, and I'm not sure why the sub title is "Art of the Essa
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
A solid collection of essays on the writing life, Daschunds, grief, and sadness. I have read anything by this author before but this is good writing.

(The publisher sent me this book along with a book I won from a LibraryThing Giveaway).
Mar 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Beautiful writing but the essays are all over the map. Not sure if there is a theme here, and that's okay. I can't say I'll remember much of the book, except maybe the chapter about her welcoming young refugees into her home. I'd call this a collection of essays by a writer's writer. ...more
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Rosie Huf
Great collection. Pritchard reveals the humanness in the creative process. A pleasure to read.
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
Not what I was expecting, but I wish it had been.
John Addiego
Jul 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The essay on Whitman and spirit was fantastic!
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May 01, 2016
Cbsd library
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Apr 20, 2015
Nicole "GiGi" Klem
As a fan of Pritchard's writing I was excited for the chance to read this essay collection. And it didn't disappoint! The best part of this book is that it didn't feel like you were reading a collection of disconnected essays- more like you were having an afternoon chat with a friend. Highly recommended! ...more
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Oct 14, 2015
Rebecca Jensen
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Nov 05, 2015
Nick Soon
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Dec 14, 2018
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Aasheesh Pittie
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Jan 14, 2020
Charlie Bickel
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Oct 25, 2015
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Sep 11, 2016
April Christine
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Aug 21, 2015
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Dec 18, 2015
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Awards: Flannery O'Connor, Carl Sandburg, Janet Kafka, NEA, five Pushcart and O.Henry Prizes.
Eleven books, work published in Paris Review, Ecotone, A Public Space, Conjunctions, Southern Review, O the Oprah Magazine, ARRIVE, the Wilson Quarterly, the Nation, Chicago Tribune, NYTBR. Recent fiction in AGNI 83, Ploughshares, Summer Issue, guest editors James Wood and Claire Messud, and Gettysburg Rev

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