May Sarton: The Indomitable Writer

One of my favorite authors is not extremely well-known, though she is well-read in feminist and lesbian circles. Two years ago I read May Sarton: A Biography, by Margot Peters. In Sarton’s novels, the reader is infused with a sense of healing — there is a tenderness in her handling of complex human issues. She wrote about growth, love, transformation. She expressed herself poetically. Even her journals — raw, at times — can be exquisite in their detail and insight. However, the biography revealed her to be needy, verbally abusive, impulsive, arrogant, intense, rageful, and, I suspect, bipolar. Did that dismay me? No, actually not. For as unattractively as she could behave, her work stands on its own. The critics never gave her the due she desired and, I think, deserved. She also wanted to be a poet, and this is what she considered herself primarily to be. She wrote novels and taught to put a roof over her head (with the help of family money).

Sarton was revealed to me as a fragile, broken person through whom beauty emerged. Isn’t that what we all are, and what we aspire to do?

I Googled around and found lots of bibliographies (not an extensive search, mind you) but all listed the work alphabetically. I read May Sarton’s book about a cat as a teenager, and then I worked my way through her oeuvre, reading her recent novels; only later could I get ahold of her first works. I think it’s important to read an author chronologically to experience their development. There’s a lot more of Sarton remaining for me to read; I have only read one journal and a book of poems. She was prolific. When she died at age 83, she had published 53 books. What follows is a selected bibliography based on what I scouted on the net. A brief biography can be read here.

Novels (in order of publication):

Journals and Memoirs (in order of publication)

Poetry (in order of publication):

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One Comment on “May Sarton: The Indomitable Writer”

  1. Silverlotus Says:

    About a year or so back I read one of her journals, At Seventy I think it was. Honestly, I was a bit intimidated by Ms. Sarton. To be that active and outgoing at that age amazed me to no end. (My grandparents all died rather young, or were quite ill at the end.) Because of my intimidation, I have yet to read more of her journals or books, even though I enjoyed At Seventy so much. Perhaps I should read the biography. Sometimes it is nice to see an author as just as human as you, the reader, are.