On the couch with the bookish babes of BibliotherapyYou need therapy, sister Bibliotherapy to be exact. Subtitled The Girl's Guide to Books for Every Phase of Our Lives, this is one glorious and hilarious guide to a life's worth of literature. From "When You're Feeling Unnoticed and Unloved: Bad Hair Babe Books" to "When You Desperately Need to Believe That There's a Purpose to It All: Embracing-Your-Inner-Light Books," there are chapters for every occasion and stage of a woman's life. Think about it the books we read really do show us where we've been and where we're headed. We loved Eloise during those frisky days of childhood and Judy Bloom's books during our angst-ridden adolescence. Then, in college, along came Gloria Steinem who taught us to wake up and smell the patriarchy. And here we are, years later, reaching desperately for a copy of Raising Your Spirited Child. Times have changed.
But how to begin the daunting task of compiling a guide that spans a lifetime? Authors Beverly West and Nancy Peske first cousins, dear friends, editors and authors of the sleeper hit Cinematherapy: The Girl's Guide to Movies for Every Mood say it involved many hours of girl talk. Beverly says, "We sat down and said, OK, let's think of every book we ever read." Not a task for the faint of memory. "Nancy and I, both being readers, have turned to books in big moments in our lives, and even in smaller ones . . . [we] thought about what the landmark phases were in a woman's life and thought about the books that have either had a big impact on the way women experience those stages as a population like menopause or puberty and also the stuff we turn to that helps us cope with loss, or divorce, or when we've suddenly gone deaf to our inner voice and need to reinvent ourselves." Women may indeed use books differently than guys do, turning to them in times of need, but that doesn't mean Bibliotherapy excludes books by that other gender. On the contrary, says Nancy, "we have books that are classic 'guy' literature but that speak to women." Beverly points out, "we've not only looked at women's literature but at all books that have influenced us as people, not just as women." In other words, there's some Bukowski in the mix, too.
Both West and Peske gained new insight by revisiting the books that influenced their lives. Beverly rediscovered Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance while Nancy read Rebecca with new eyes. "I had read Rebecca probably a half dozen times in my 20s, and when I went back to write about it, I started . . . discovering in the process of writing what that book was about, how I read it [at that time] . . . Those themes were very resonant for me in my 20s."What do the authors have on their bedside tables at present? Nancy is leisurely leafing through the first Harry Potter adventure and is also "going through a big spirituality phase," reading The Jesus Mysteries and books about the goddess tradition. She's also working on a book by a wiccan high priestess who wrote Book of Shadows. Beverly just finished writing a book for Falcon Press on the remarkable women of New Mexico goddesses in their own right so she's been immersed in reading a lot of biography. "I just finished an autobiography of Mable Dodge Louhan. She was like the madame de style of the Southwest . . . I'm hung up on unmanageable women at present, being one myself."She may be unmanageable, but these two certainly manage to work well as a team, complementing each other at every turn. Beverly kids Nancy, "We can't get out of this collaboration. She's going to be staring at me over turkey at Thanksgiving." Features of the book include Notes from Nancy's and Bev's Reading Journals; choice passages from each book followed by a digestible, witty discussion of it; "Points to Ponder" about each entry; "Can I get that printed on a coffee mug?" quotes from authors and nonauthors alike; and a laugh-out-loud "Books to Be Thrown with Great Force" section. So what's next for Peske and West? Audiotherapy, perhaps? They've considered it they say, but next on their plate is the March 2002 release of Advanced Cinematherapy, the follow-up course for those who passed Cinematherapy 101. For now, however, we strongly recommend taking some time to get in touch with your inner bibliophile.
Katherine H. Wyrick lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.