By one of the authors of Tell It Slant, Season of the Body is a collection of lovely essays which showcase Miller’s extraordinary, often poetic prose. She writes intimately about her own body and love affairs; two miscarriages when she was twenty which resulted in her inability to have children, and her feelings about that inability over the course of a life; her explorations in spirituality; different forms of family; and art. Her writing is sensual and muscular. I wonder if I use those words to describe it because the title, Season of the Body, cued me to do so. I think they ring true.
Without going back to investigate whether this is literally true, I am left with the impression that these essays run more or less chronologically in terms of the time in Miller’s life that they handle. So we meet her first as a young woman, dealing with the medical side of two miscarriages, and exploring her maternal ancestry and Jewish heritage. We see her pursuing relationships that work out more and less well; she becomes a godmother to a friend’s child, and wishes for her own. Later, we see her reflecting back from a certain distance. These essays also carry her through space, and because a sense of place is important to me, that intrigues me – all the more so because Miller and I now live in the same town, so I see some of her vistas out my own windows.
The fineness of this writing is indisputable. It is emotionally very powerful and evocative, and an extraordinary showcase for what language can do; her essays should really be read at least twice, for their content and again for their music. As craft, these essays are exemplary. In terms of their subject matter, they really got me thinking about the idea of the universal in personal writing. Writers of creative nonfiction are urged to find the universal in the personal story. I found myself sometimes distant from the sort of physical flesh of these essays: spiritual questing and yearning for babies are not experiences that resonate with me. I had to stop to consider how Miller’s writing did and didn’t speak to me. But I continued to feel pulled into the story, for the beauty of the writing as much as anything else. A friend characterized the themes of this collection a little less physically than I did: he cited “hope deferred and fractured desire.” In these terms, the stories Miller tells are much more universal, and maybe that’s where I responded to them, too.