" Space for silence will help us perceive our interconnectedness. " WWM
Using words to write a book on silence often felt like a contradiction to me. I sometimes longed for a solution like John Cage's, when muscians performed his composition of silence for four minutes and thirty-three silent seconds. Or like Tilley Olsen's, defining it from a single angle: the suffocating realities of women who were without means and fair chances.
Instead, my experience of a cross-cultural existence made my translation of silence inevitably one of continuous openings: flows and breaks suggesting horizons beyond the narrow definitions we assume in identity, our histories, our language.
I composed the final chapters of Silence and Silences in Italy during a lockdown period in the pandemic. Covid 19 penetrated--but by no means dictated--the book's flow. My writing assumes that the unknown is always right before our eyes. In the world ahead, to live fully we will need more courage, imagination and equality. Giving space to silence and unknowing will help us perceive our interconnectedness.
Silence and Silences, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, can be ordered now. Click here or below on the "Books Available From" section.
There is a great deal of silence in my inner writing life, and a great number of strong opinions in my outer one. My voice, a woman's voice, defines her place in Silence and Silences, among hundreds of other voices, living and dead, literary, unnamed, together coaxing and inviting readers to listen to themselves.
A comment about the book: Find others on the "Works" page.
"Silence and Silences is like both being in and simultaneously discovering a planet or an ancient, phosphorescent-rich sea, still unnamed, waiting.
The thrill is in the skillful slow mapping, naming, the coaxing of connections hidden then surfacing through an infinity of human silences. Roethke, Agnes, Martin, Rachel Carson, Charlotte Bronte, Hildegard, among so many others, are like map pins, charting a pathway for the reader."
Alexandra Johnson, author of The Hidden Voice, special citation, PEN Award for Nonfiction.
EVENTS for Silence and Silences
"Fireworks went off in my head reading the book...like W.G. Sebald, Ann Carson, in a different way, (you) pull together ideas ordered in the mind so that some kind of truth can be honored."
John Ganiard, interviewer, Literati bookstore, best independent, 2019
- Virtual Memories Show, January 23, 2022, Episode #468
- 1 hour and 20 minutes
"Wallis helps the reader come to terms with the immensity of life and everything that is camouflaged from us until we learn to listen and to look more deeply. It is an utterly georgous book."
Gil Roth, host, Virtual Memories Show
- "Piercing the Veil of Silence: How the Outbreak of Covid 19 Impacted the Writing of my Book: published on line in Literary Hub and reprinted in Works in Progress, FSG, Jan 7, 2022
- Geneva Writers Group, Geneva, Switzerland, April 7, 2022, free enrollment: write for link: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Seminary Coop Bookstore, Chicago, Ill, zoom to be announced.
- Feltrinelli bookstore, Parma, Italy, to be announced. Event to be held in person with Tobias Jones
- Arab World books, Cairo, Egypt, zoom, May 21, 2022. Link will be provided closer to the date.
* Please check for updates and links
Mother Tongue, An American Life in Italy, is reissued, FSG, 2020
* 2020 Edition *
Foreword by Patricia Hampl and Preface by the Author
"Passionate, sensuous, even fierce," (Kirkus Review), Mother Tongue, An American Life in Italy, describing WWM's early years living in Parma, provides "at one and the same time, a rounded picture of a city and of a woman describing the flow of life itself...as in a symphony." (Gazzetta di Parma).
Tim Parks observes: "Mother Tongue is a sustained and generous meditation on difference, the discovery of oneself and one's own culture through the urgent need to come to terms with another. Few writers have savored Italy so intimately and intelligently...".
Frances Mayes, whose books have led so many readers to travel to Italy, wrote in her latest work, "I read further into (WWM's) book about living in Parma, realizing at every page that her roots show how a visitor like me only treads the surface of the place."
The Paris Review online
An Attentive Memoir of Life in Parma
By Patricia Hampl March 20, 2020
READ THE REVIEW >