Marge Piercy

Marge Piercy


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Marge Piercy is the author of seventeen novels including The New York Times Bestseller Gone To Soldiers; the National Bestsellers Braided Lives and The Longings of Women and the classic Woman on the Edge of Time; seventeen volumes of poetry; and a critically acclaimed memoir Sleeping with Cats. Born in center-city Detroit, educated at the University of Michigan, and the recipient of four honorary doctorates, she has been a key player in many of the major progressive political battles of our time, including the anti-Vietnam war and the women's movement, and more recently an active participant in the resistance to the war in Iraq.

Praised as one of the few American writers who are accomplished poets as well as novelists — Piercy is one of the country's bestselling poets — she is also the master of many genres: historical novels, science fiction (for which she won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction in the United Kingdom), novels of social comment and contemporary entertainments. She has taught, lectured, and performed her work at well over 400 universities around the world.


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My Life, My Body
Author: Marge Piercy
Publisher: PM Press/Outspoken Authors
ISBN: 978-1-62963-105-9
Published: 08/01/2015
Format: Paperback
Size: 7.5x5
Page count: 128
Subjects: Women's Studies/Literature-Collection
$12.00

In a candid and intimate new collection of essays, poems, memoirs, reviews, rants, and railleries, Piercy discusses her own development as a working-class feminist, the highs and lows of TV culture, the ego-dances of a writer's life, the homeless and the housewife, Allen Ginsberg and Marilyn Monroe, feminist utopias (and why she doesn't live in one), why fiction isn't physics; and of course, fame, sex, and money, not necessarily in that order. The short essays, poems, and personal memoirs intermingle like shards of glass that shine, reflect—and cut. Always personal yet always political, Piercy's work is drawn from a deep well of feminist and political activism.

Also featured is our Outspoken Interview, in which the author lays out her personal rules for living on Cape Cod, finding your poetic voice, and making friends in Cuba.

Praise:

“Marge Piercy is not just an author, she’s a cultural touchstone. Few writers in modern memory have sustained her passion, and skill, for creating stories of consequence.”
Boston Globe

“As always, Piercy writes with high intelligence, love for the world, ethical passion and innate feminism.”
—Adrienne Rich

“One of the most important poets of our time.”
Philadelphia Inquirer

“Piercy’s writing is as passionate, lucid, insightful, and thoughtfully alive as ever.”
Publishers Weekly

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The Cost of Lunch, Etc.
Author: Marge Piercy
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-496-0 (cloth) 978-1-62963-125-7 (paper)
Published: 04/2014 in cloth, 09/2015 in paper
Format: Hardcover and paperback
Size: 8 x 5
Page Count: 192
Subjects: Fiction
$15.95

Marge Piercy’s debut collection of short stories, The Cost of Lunch, Etc., brings us glimpses into the lives of everyday women moving through and making sense of their daily internal and external worlds. Keeping to the engaging, accessible language of Piercy’s novels, the collection spans decades of her writing along with a range of locations, ages, and emotional states of her protagonists. From the first-person account of hoarding (“Saving Mother from Herself” ) to a girl’s narrative of sexual and spiritual discovery (“Going over Jordan” ) to a recount of a past love affair (“The Easy Arrangement” ) each story is a tangible, vivid snapshot in a varied and subtly curated gallery of work. Whether grappling with death, familial relationships, friendship, sex, illness, or religion, Piercy’s writing is as passionate, lucid, insightful, and thoughtfully alive as ever.

Praise:

“The author displays an old-fashioned narrative drive and a set of well-realized characters permitted to lead their own believably odd lives.” 

—Thomas Mallon, Newsday

“This reviewer knows no other writer with Piercy’s gifts for tracing the emotional route that two people take to a double bed, and the mental games and gambits each transacts there.” 

—Ron Grossman, Chicago Tribune

“Marge Piercy is not just an author, she’s a cultural touchstone. Few writers in modern memory have sustained her passion, and skill, for creating stories of consequence.” 

Boston Globe

“What Piercy has that Danielle Steel, for example, does not is an ability to capture life’s complex texture, to chart shifting relationships and evolving consciousness within the context of political and economic realities she delineates with mordant matter-of-factness. Working within the venerable tradition of socially conscious fiction, she brings to it a feminist understanding of the impact such things as class and money have on personal interactions without ever losing sight of the crucial role played by individuals’ responses to those things.” 

—Wendy Smith, Chicago Sun-Times

“As always, Piercy writes with high intelligence, love for the world, ethical passion and innate feminism.” 

—Adrienne Rich

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Braided Lives
Author: Marge Piercy
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-442-7
Published: August 2013
Format: Paperback
Size: 9 by 6
Page count: 456 Pages
Subjects: Fiction, Feminism
$20.00

Marge Piercy carries her portrait of the American experience back into the Fifties—that closed, repressive time in which forces for the upheavals of the Sixties ticked away underground. Spanning twenty years, and teeming with vivid characters, Braided Lives tells the powerful, unsentimental story of two young women coming of age.

Jill, fiercely independent, dark, Jewish, an intellectual with Detroit street smarts, is a poet, curious, avid of life—a “professional student” and sometime thief. Donna, Jill’s cousin and closest friend, is blond, pretty, and alluring. Together, they grow and change at college in Ann Arbor, where the life of poets and painters contrasts sharply with the working-class neighborhood where Jill’s family lives.

In Michigan, and afterward in New York City, the two women taste love and betrayal, friendship and pain, independence and fear as they reach a deepening understanding that to control their lives they must fight. And though their fates differ as widely as their personalities, both reflect the danger that sex posed at a time when abortions were illegal and an affair could destroy a woman’s life, making the outcome of a chance encounter or a night of love a matter of life and death.

Braided Lives is an enduring portrait of the past that has led to our tenuous present. In her new introduction to this edition, Marge Piercy reflects on both the most autobiographical of her novels, and the ongoing battles to ensure the hard-fought victories of the Sixties and Seventies, particularly around sex and reproductive rights.

Praise:

“This book demonstrates the maturation of Piercy’s native talent for story-telling…we would have to look to a French writer like Colette or to American writers of another generation, like May Sarton, to find anyone who writes as tenderly as Piercy about life’s redeeming pleasures—sex, of course, but also the joys of good food, good conversation, and the reassuring little rituals like feeding the cats, watering the plant, weeding the garden.” —Judith Paterson, Washington Post Book World

“A delicious binge of a book. I had a wonderful time reading Braided Lives, crying real tears at the sad parts and feeling real elation at the happy ones.” —San Francisco Chronicle

Braided Lives is a big, rich book. This writer just gets better and better. She is allowing more flashes of humor and more generosity…her sure novelist’s hold on making a good story, her poet’s eye for careful detail... Braided Lives is a novel that tries not to simplify but to clarify and by so doing, it adds a great deal to our understanding of how things came to be as they are, and what some of yesterday might have meant.” —Marcie Hershman, Boston Globe

“Marge Piercy is the political novelist of our time. More: she is the conscience.” —Marilyn French

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Dance the Eagle to Sleep: A Novel
Author: Marge Piercy
Publisher: PM Press
Published: January 2012
Format: Paperback
Size: 9 by 6
Page count: 265 Pages
Subjects: Fiction
$17.95

Originally published in 1970, Marge Piercy’s second novel follows the lives of four teenagers, in a near-future society, as they rebel against a military draft and “the system.” The occupation of Franklin High School begins, and with it, the open rebellion of America’s youth against their channeled, unrewarding lives and the self-serving, plastic society that directs them.

From the disillusionment and alienation of the young at the center of the revolt, to their attempts to build a visionary new society, the nationwide following they gain and the brutally complete repression that inevitably follows, this is future fiction without a drop of fantasy.
As driving, violent, and nuanced today as it was 40 years ago, this anniversary edition includes a new introduction by the author, reflecting unapologetically on the novel and the times from which it emerged.

Praise:

Dance the Eagle to Sleep bears a strong family resemblance, in kind and quality, to William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and to Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange. It would be no surprise to see it become, like these others, a totem and legend of the young.”  —Time

Dance the Eagle to Sleep is a vision, not an argument… It is brilliant. Miss Piercy was a published poet before she resorted to the novel, exploiting its didactic aspect, and her prose crackles, depolarizes, sends shivers leaping across the synaptic cleft. The ‘eagle’ is America, bald and all but extinct. The ‘dance’ is performed by the tribal young, the self-designated ‘Indians,’ after their council meetings, to celebrate their bodies and their escape from the cannibalizing ‘system.’ The eagle isn’t danced to sleep; it sends bombers to devastate the communes of the young...  What a frightening, marvelous book!”  —New York Times

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Vida
Authors: Marge Piercy
Publisher: PM Press
Published April 2011
Format: Paperback
Size: 9 by 6
Page count: 416 Pages
Subjects: Fiction
$20.00

VIDA is the most important novel yet written about the political '60s and '70s; it is at the same time a sensual and moving love story. Vida is full of the pleasures and pains, the experiments, disasters and victories of an extraordinary band of people.
At the center of the novel stands Vida Asch. She has lived underground for almost a decade. Back in the '60s she was a political star of the exuberant antiwar movement — a red-haired beauty photographed for the pages of Life magazine — charismatic, passionate and totally sure she would prevail.

Now, a decade later, Vida is on the run, her star-quality replaced by stubborn courage. She comes briefly to rest in a safe house on Cape Cod. To her surprise and annoyance, she finds another person in the house, a fugitive, Joel, ten years younger than she, a kid who dropped into the underground out of the army. As they spend the next days together, Vida finds herself warming toward a man for the first time in years, knowing the dangers all too well.

Praise:

"Real people inhabit its pages and real suspense carries the story along...VIDA of course means life and she personifies it...I found the book fascinating."
 Chicago Tribune

"A fully controlled, tightly structured dramatic narrative of such artful intensity that it leads the reader on at almost every page." 
—New York Times Book Review

"Marge Piercy's strong, complex yet lucid political novel is a flame opus....a fire show: sometimes the explosion of a grenade, sometimes the glow of an oil lamp in a New England farm house, sometimes sparks from the friction of IRT subway wheels or the friction of passion between men and women or women and women, sometimes a veritable son et lumiere of the 60's and 70's..." 
—Washington Post

"An epic story fueled with intense commitment and sensuousness...Piercy shows characters surviving...with integrity and tenderness...in a political milieu. VIDA may be to women in the 80's what THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK was to women in the 60's." 
—Los Angeles Times

"Marge Piercy tells us exactly how it was in the lofts of the Left as the 1960s turned into the '70s. This is the way everybody sounded This is the way everybody behaved. Vida bears witness.” —New York Times

"Very exciting. Marge Piercy's characters are complex and very human
."— Margaret Atwood


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braidedWhat Life Was Like Before Roe v. Wade in 7 Books
By Lorraine Berry
Signature Reads
February 10th, 2017

One of the first novels I ever read as an adult about female friendship; for me, this book inspired the same resonance that some women feel about “Sex and the City” or “Girls.” Piercy’s novel is set in the 1950s, and weaves together the stories of a group of female friends who support each other through college studies, love affairs, nascent careers, and the consequences of failed birth control in the days before the Pill. When it was written in 1982, it offended the New York Times reviewer, who confessed that he only liked one of the female characters, Jill, because she “was attractive.”

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my life my bodyMy Life, My Body: A Review
By Gabriel Carlyle
Peace News
December 2015- January 2016

A self-described ‘socialist-anarchist-feminist’, the US activist and writer Marge Piercy is the author of 17 novels, spanning a wide range of different genres including science fiction, as well as one of North America’s best-selling poets.

Nonetheless, this latest addition to PM’s excellent ‘Outspoken Authors’ series eschews fiction to focus on ‘essays, rants and railleries’. The latter cover a wide variety of topics, including abortion, homelessness, censorship, the tragedy of Marilyn Monroe, the role of politics in fiction, and a moving essay on Piercy’s own discovery of feminism.

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my life my bodyMy Life, My Body.: A Starred Review
Publishers Weekly
September 2015

This pithy collection of essays and poems condenses Piercy's sharp wit and ruthless clarity into a crystalline set of provocations brimming with earthy good sense, social awareness, and "the dignity of necessary work." Piercy (Made in Detroit) wields the no-nonsense approach of the working writer who has earned her place through many trials and can speak with an authority that peels away mental flab and pierces complacency. She demands art and literature that will "change consciousness a tiny bit at a time." Her prose is lean, efficient, and full of muscle, tearing through the tissue of illusion around gentrification, censorship, fame, and Marilyn Monroe, while the counterpoised poetry, unabashedly and urgently political, lobs cannonballs from the side of the disenfranchised and invisible. A self-proclaimed "socialist-anarchist-feminist," Piercy delivers a precise and devastating critique of political showmanship, corporate greed, economic insecurity, and the constant debate over ownership of and access to women's bodies. Rife with a passionate sense of justice and dry, direct humor, this slim, essential volume ignites the mind and validates the function of activist art.

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cost of lunchThe Cost of Lunch, Etc.: A Review
Rain Taxi
November 2014

In short stories, the reader has only a few pages to identify with the protagonist. This means that effective short stories require strong characters, concise plots, and memorable settings. It also means that it can be difficult for a novelist to make the shift to short fiction.  Happily, Marge Piercy has succeeded admirably with the twenty well-crafted tales in The Cost of Lunch, Etc., her first short story collection.

A prolific novelist, poet, and memoirist, Piercy’s books include Woman on the Edge of Time, Gone to Soldiers, and The Hunger Moon. As in poetry, short fiction involves working within a limited space, and Piercy uses the skills she has earned as a poet to craft rich, succinct stories with quirky characters and layered imagery.


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cost of lunchThe Cost of Lunch, Etc.: A Review
Barnstable Patriot
September 2014

Short stories have never been my thing. If something captures my “reading attention” right away, I don’t want it to stop, and I find short fiction frustrating for that reason. Armed with this prior mindset, I hunkered down reluctantly with Marge Piercy’s new book, a short story collection called “The Cost of Lunch, Etc.,” and prepared for disappointment. Well, I sure was wrong on this one. These stories entrance and satisfy at the highest level.

I recently read an article that described the initial screening for a new movie release. At the end, a young audience member stands and says, “You’ve just captured my life.” That’s just what Piercy does – and what a good short story can do – by capturing a quick-flash photo illuminating some act or thought that rings true in our own personal experience.

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cost of lunchThe Cost of Lunch, Etc.: A Review
By Sally Hughes
We Love This Book
August 21st, 2014

Marge Piercy is a great poet and this is clearly evident in the way she handles words. This is her first collection of short stories (although drawn from the work of a number of years) but the same economy of phrase, depth of emotion and touch of astringency you find in her poetry is here...

These stories bear the hallmark of the 70s feminist movement - not in terms of setting, there are stories set up to today - but in terms of the emotional tenet and confessional nature of the collection. Men do not on the whole come out of the stories very well but you do get to meet an amazing caste of vulnerable, gritty and generally fabulous women of all ages.
 
Many of the stories are funny, a few shocking, all are interesting and incredibly well-told. For a journey into the feminine psyche it is unparalleled.


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cost of lunchThe Cost of Lunch, Etc.: A Review
By Deborah Donovan
Booklist
July 1st, 2014

Piercy’s (Sex Wars, 2005) latest short stories focus, as do her many novels, poetry collections, and earlier stories, on powerful female characters—women who are not always right, or sympathetic, or admirable, but definitely strong. The mother in “Saving Mother from Herself” is a hoarder coerced by her daughter into relinquishing her precious “collection” to the dump or local resale shops—and then changes the locks on her house, avoids her phone, and hits the yard-sale circuit with renewed vigor. A teenager in “Going over Jordan” stands up to her parents, gradually breaking away from the stifling confinement of their fundamentalist church. In “She’s Dying, He Said,” a woman looks back on the year in her childhood when she had German measles followed by rheumatic fever, and the doctor and her family gave her up for dead—except for her vigilant Jewish grandmother, who warded off the demons and nursed her back to health. Piercy homes in on her characters, mixing just the right amount of humor into her always insightful take on imperfect human relationships, in their many guises.

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cost of lunchThe Cost of Lunch, Etc.: A Review
Ms. Magazine
Summer 2014 pg. 59

Piercy's debut short-story collection heralds the beloved feminist writer's return to fiction after a long hiatus. The stories, written in the fiercely honest style of her novels, follows everyday women attempting to make sense of their world. (One of the stories, "Saving mother from herself," first appeared in the Winter 2013 issue of Ms.)

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cost of lunchThe Cost of Lunch, Etc.: A Review
Publishers Weekly
July

With uncompromising emotional intensity, Piercy (Gone to Soldiers), the author of 17 novels, 17 volumes of poetry, and a memoir, captures the complex female experience in her debut short story collection. From the title story featuring an aspiring female poet who weighs the price of sex and poetry to a student’s disenchantment with her high school teacher (“Somebody Who Understands You”), Piercy maps the interior lives of women across generations, paying special attention to the socio-politcal environment that affects them. Her writing maintains a skillful detachment, limning moments of isolation between characters with palpable unease: “He is gentle. If he does not touch her with passion, neither does he hurt her. That is very important, not to be hurt.” Piercy, whose work is inseparable from her feminist politics, includes many characters (seven of whom are writers) who are suggestively autobiographical in their histories and musings, including a girl dying of rheumetic fever (“She’s Dying, He Said”), an anti–Vietnam War activist shuttling men to the Canadian border (“The Border”). Piercy is best at unraveling what she creates—turning an answer into a question in “Do You Love Me?,” and a soliloquy punctuated by silence in “Little Sister, Cat and Mouse.” Powerful in scope, the collection feels driven by an idea rather than a story, demonstrating Piercy’s understanding of how social constructs evolve in deeply personal ways.

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cost of lunchThe Cost of Lunch, Etc.: A Review
By Paul Buhle
Swans Commentary
May 4th, 2014

Many of Marge Piercy's readers have been following her assorted writings across the span of their adult lives. We were young with her in the later 1960s and have snapped up, poked through, or otherwise taken note of her volumes ever since. So the notion that this new volume is a "debut collection" strikes an odd note. Then again, novelist and poet Piercy has not been doing much in the short-story vein all these decades. At points, The Cost of Lunch more than makes up for the lapse.

This is a tough book, not by sentence structure or fancy words, but "tough" in the sense that her protagonists yield no ground, reject men after awhile, and deal sharply with women who are hopelessly male-oriented. Piercy's favorite women are Piercy Women. And they are unforgiving.

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vidaVida: A Review
By Nina Lary
Bitch Magazine

Given her background, Piercy might have contextualized this new edition of Vida within the current political landscape. Instead, she introduces it with an air of nostalgia, calling Vida, for better or worse, “a historical novel.” For those too young to have been there, she hopes that they will “learn from our successes and our failures and be inspired to imagine a movement that might again try to change the structure and direction of our country into a more humane, just, and equal society.” While her story still stands as politically and humanistically relevant, Piercy’s readers could have been better served if she’d used the rerelease to speak directly to the issues of our time.

Recommended If:
You want to learn more about the ’60s political underground, but your eyes glaze over at the mere mention of Marx.

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