W-3: Postcard From The Edge

Rachel Cooke at The Guardian:

W-3, Bette Howland’s memoir of her stay in a psychiatric hospital following an overdose, was first published in 1974, and comes to us now following the reissue, last year, of her 1978 collection of stories, Blue in ChicagoBoth, as you may already know, are back in print thanks to the determination of Brigid Hughes, the editor of the literary magazine A Public Space. In 2015, Hughes found a copy of W-3 in a secondhand bookshop in New York and, having recognised Howland, by now living in a home and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, as a forgotten talent, resolved to give her a second life (Howland died just two years later). Blue in Chicago, in which the city, cruel and slum-scarred, is effectively put on trial in a series of autobiographical sketches, was widely praised both here and in the US, and rightly so, though I think it’s also fair to say that its author’s backstory may have played some part in people’s intense admiration for her lapidary prose and feeling for human battlegrounds. A working-class, Jewish, single parent, Howland was a lover and protege of Saul Bellow, who confessed himself moved by the “tough-minded” W-3.

more here.