Monday, December 17, 2007

The Best Writing You Haven't Read

Every time I post something by Joyce Sutphen, I get email of the 'where have you been all my life' sort. 'You' being her, of course.

She's every bit as good as Mary Oliver or Sharon Olds. Big literary shoes, bold claims, yes.

Her two best books are Straight Out of View and Coming Back to the Body, both published by New Rivers Press. Although I once heard her read on A Prairie Home Companion, she's an artist who hasn't gotten the acclaim she deserves.

I often think of Mary Dutton, who wrote one heart-shattering book which was published in 1967: Thorpe. How much do I love this book? John and I were locked in mortal combat over naming our only daughter.

Thorpe or Scarlett.

Either way, we were saddling her. Thorpe doesn't fall easily on the ear. Scarlett carries much cultural freight, heavy with both race and gender.

Of course, we gave her the cultural freight and prettier name. And it suits her.

Anyway, I think about Mary Dutton quite a bit. The book's back jacket tells me she was s a housewife, volunteer and sometimes teacher with three children. Took her ten years to write that book.

Sounds awfully familiar.

That was in 1967. Where was her fame? Her acclaim? I hope she enjoyed some small spotlight during her lifetime. Thorpe is every bit as good as To Kill a Mockingbird. Maybe better.

So here's my shout to the under-appreciated artists, the ones with the gift who don't get tapped by fame.

You will thank me if you read any of these three books, too.


Mrs. G. said...

I am so excited, because I have not heard of her. I am thrilled when someone recommends a writer so passionately. I am off to Amazon to order some holiday reading. I can't wait!

Anonymous said...

I keep seeing her poems (Writer's Almanac, and from you, Mary), so now I'll be getting one of her books. I have this poem hanging up at my desk at work:

"Things You Didn't Put On Your Resumé"

I have gasped a time or two at the end of her poems - she is very good.

robin said...

Thank you for your kind words about Mary Dutton. She is my grandmother and a wonderful woman. She inspired me to become a writer too.
much love,

Unknown said...

I remember sitting in Mary's kitchen, listening as she and my mother talked about Thorpe as it was in progress. They talked about passages, sentences, words. I said my final good bye to Mary yesterday. My copy of Thorpe has a special place on my bookcase and I know that Mary has a special place where she is now. Love you always, Mary

Magpie said...

I just finished Thorpe, cause of you. Thanks. Breathtaking.

labyris said...

I love Thorpe too, and have read it many times since I first found it on my mother's bookshelf when I was in grade school. I see that Mary Dutton passed away in 2010.

The book has been out of print and the rights have undoubtedly reverted to the family. It would be wonderful if they released it for Kindle and other eReaders. I'd love to see new generations discover it and they could get more money publishing it themselves as an ebook than splitting the money with publishers. She'd be happy to see the family receive more money for her work, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, excited to find this! Thorpe is one of my favorite books and has been for over 30 years! I have two copies that I found at book sales, and my mom has our original copy. I have read it so many times. Amazing writer. I have always been sorry there weren't more books by her. Would love to see it rereleased.