Harrison Solow has been honoured with multiple awards for her literary fiction, nonfiction, cross-genre writing, poetry and professional writing, most notably winning the prestigious Pushcart Prize in 2008. A sought-after writer and strategic consultant of rare experience, her work spans Hollywood, Academia, Business, Law and Literature. Dr. Solow is one of the two best-selling University of California Press authors in the history of the press (at time of publication), a Notable Alumna of Mills College where she earned an MFA, and was Writer in Residence at two UK Universities. She holds the rare distinction of a British PhD in English (Letters) with a critical and creative dissertation “Accepted as Submitted: No Changes” from Trinity Saint David University.
Dr. Solow lectures in English and American Literature; Fiction, Creative Nonfiction and Cross Genre Writing; Specific Authors; Science Fiction; Professional Writing; Philosophy and Theology. She is a strong proponent of the traditional Liberal Arts, the Fine Arts and the Utilitarian Arts as separate and equally respectable entities, and a patron of literary endeavors. She speaks several varieties of English, Intermediate Welsh and rusty French. Harrison Solow is married to Herbert F. Solow, Producer, Director and former Head of MGM, Paramount and Desilu Studios in Hollywood. She has two sons. Learn more about Harrison on her Red Room author’s page and here.
Books Beside Harrison Solow’s Bed: The permanent and impermanent collection:
On the shelves of a small glowing bookshelf made of yew, brought back from Wales and quite near my bed, are the books I don’t normally talk about. I read books for so many reasons, that this conglomerate wouldn’t make much sense to anyone but me: there are cringingly badly written British school stories, campy elementary school health textbooks from the ’30s (a healthy breakfast included four pieces of toast, oatmeal, eggs, juice, milk, and lots of butter and cream) and wonderfully written books about anything from marbles to Ingrid Bergman to challah to France. A few of my favourite theological or spiritual books are housed there, as are selected treasures from childhood like the entire Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace, Here I Stay by Elizabeth Coatsworth, The Pink Maple House by Christine Noble Govan and Susan’s Safe Harbor, by Katherine Wigmore Eyre, among a host of other children’s books, mostly out of print. I find these enormously restful. And there are many more.
Of course everyone reads for different reasons but we all choose different books to fulfil those reasons and mine are a product of the many worlds I’ve inhabited and attempt to reconcile. I’m reading the early 20th century, The Catholic Girl’s Guide, at the moment, for example, for a mixture of nostalgia, hilarity and horror. And also for a modicum of solid and genuine ethics, however heavily overlaid with theatrics.
On the nightstand itself, there is almost always an Anita Brookner or AS Byatt novel; usually a book on philosophy/physics/astronomy and some science fiction work; sometimes The Trivium by Sister Miriam Joseph is there, brought into the bedroom from my office, where I try to read it through once a year. Occasionally a couple of journals, like Literary Imagination and Agni take up impermanent residence, alongside a work by Chaim Potok or some other Jewish American writer, but always present is my little boxed set of Jane Austen novels from a favourite bookshop in England, and a battered copy of Sacred Space, Chosen People, by Dorian Llywelyn.
Then there is the book I am currently reading which at this moment of writing is American Austen: The Forgotten Writing of Agnes Repplier but will soon be The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart by Ruth Behar. I read a relevant chapter for my PhD thesis and loved it but never read the whole thing – so that’s next.
I’m not sure any conclusions can be drawn about my reading preferences from these, because I have a very large library elsewhere in the house which includes books I read and re-read (Chaucer is next), just not in bed. And again, I read material for so many reasons, sometimes just because I’m teaching them. These reasons include but are not limited to edification, escape, enlightenment, instruction, hilarity, relief, incredulity, information, irritation, research, a standard to which to aspire, and a kind of rapturous elevation at engagement with excellence. This last is why there is almost always a Brookner work nearby and why Sacred Space, Chosen People (on the spirituality and identity of Wales) is a permanent resident on the nightstand.
“Not quite crystal clear, but blinding in the absence of cloud, and gaining authority from the becalmed stillness of the garden, it put Mrs. May in mind of novels and stories celebrating gardens other than her own, gardens which were part of estates, demesnes, where richly endowed families conversed in idleness, sat on terraces, or awaited visitors. `What meads, what kvasses were brewed, what pies were baked at Oblomovka!’ The great sun, clearer then, must have shone down on that Russia as it did now in London, at six o’clock on a Sunday evening in early September. It was the hour at which she was accustomed to experience a slight failure of nerve.” (Brookner)
“However, the membrane between the two [worlds] is not wholly impermeable. Sacred place happens when there is a breach in the wall, precipitating a leakage of the divine into the world… The irruption of the sacred into the sphere of the profane renders the place of meeting consecrated by contact, so that it becomes extraordinary, gifted with being to such an extent that…only sacred space and those who inhabit it can truly partake of the fullness of reality.” (Llywelyn)
These are the writers that impel one’s own writing – and thinking – and stay with one through a long night or a short one, filled with immeasurable dreams.