Cover image for In brief : short takes on the personal
In brief : short takes on the personal
Kitchen, Judith.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, [1999]

Physical Description:
288 pages ; 21 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS688 .I48 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In their previous collection Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones coined the term "short" for those creative nonfiction pieces -- literary rather than informational, and characteristically short -- that are attracting our finest writers. Now, with a more introspective focus, this new collection emphasizes the personal as "a way of seeing the world, of expressing an interior life. It is intimate without being maudlin, it is private without being secret." From Harriet Doerr's recollection of a halcyon time to Josephine Jacobsen's reverie on memory, In Brief offers vivid glimpses into the ways experience can be shaped in language that is fresh and inventive. The seventy-two authors here include the known -- John McPhee, Cythia Ozick, James Salter -- as well as remarkable new writers. Essays (all under 2000 words) range from Frank McCourt's search for his father in the pubs of Limerick to William Maxwell's thoughts about growing old; from Charles Baxter's early experience of reading to Brady Udall's confession as a liar. Patricia Hampl recalls meals at her grandmother's house, while Jane Brox contemplates the meaning of bread. In each piece, imagination becomes a way to explore reality. The real world we are fortunate enough to live in is revealed as endlessly rich and deep.

Author Notes

Judith Kitchen attended college in Vermont. After graduating, she worked as a part-time secretary, an assistant in a carnival supply business, with the New York state Poets in the Schools, and finally as an instructor at SUNY College at Brockport. For twenty years, she served as editor and publisher of the State Street Press Chapbook Series.

She wrote several books during her lifetime including Perennials, Writing the World: Understanding William Stafford, Only the Dance, Distance and Direction, Half in Shade: Family, Photography, and Fate, and The Circus Train. The House on Eccles Road won the S. Mariella Gable Prize in fiction. Her work has also won the Lillian Fairchild Award, the Anhinga Prize for poetry, and two Pushcart Prizes. She was the co-director of the Rainier Writing Workshop with her husband, Stan Sanvel Rubin. She died of cancer in November 2014 at the age of 73.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Noting the proliferation of creative nonfiction pieces less than 2000 words longÄranging from "fragment to finished essay, anecdote to memoir, story, meditation, hypothesis"Äeditors Kitchen and Jones follow up their 1996 In Short with another collection of pithy and tantalizing pieces. Studded with contributions from such accomplished writers as Kathleen Norris, John McPhee, Jamaica Kincaid and Rick Bass, these 73 mostly original offerings include some excerpts from longer works. Often employing the techniques of fiction, the pieces are linked by themes of family or romantic love, place or philosophy, recurring motifs, even theories of writing. In "Low Tide at Four," Harriet Doerr muses about a day in August, 1939, when she "exerted the full force of [her] will, commanding the sun to hold back the wave long enough for [her] to paint and frame low tide." William Maxwell sees his "ninetieth birthday approaching out of the corner of one eye," as much a natural phenomenon as the sea, which brings both joy and anguish as he realizes he has "lost touch with the place that stories and novels come from." In "Waking Dreams," Edwidge Danticat compares her fictional characters with their sometimes real life inspirations, recognizing that "writers always betray someone at some point." Offering autobiographical revelations, flashes of insight and lots of good writing, this is a solid meal for readers on the fly. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This refreshing and enjoyable collection of brief personal essays is a delight. Editors Kitchen and Jones have followed up In Short: A Collection of Brief Nonfiction (LJ 7/96) with a similar collection of essays in which a single voice conveys an individual experience. Many of the essays involve nature. Several authors of the New West are included: Rick Bass, Cynthia Ozick, Kathleen Norris, and Mary Clearman Blew. Other recognizable names include Frank McCourt, William Maxwell, John McPhee, Andre Dubus, and Edwidge Danticat. The quality of the writing is excellent. Diana Hume Georges On Seat Belts, Cocaine Addiction, and the Germ Theory is a humorous account of an overbearing mother and an allegedly promiscuous divorced daughter. Kelly Simons Frank Sinatras Gum tells about a teenager who, after chewing a piece of the crooners discarded gum, decides both the gum and the guy are unsugary. For the affordable price, this collection should be purchased by every libraryit is ideal for literature students and writing groups. [Editor Jones is an LJ reviewer.Ed.]Joyce Sparrow, Oldsmar Lib., St. Petersburg, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.