A Solemn Pleasure


192 pages

Trade Paper

List Price US $16.95
ISBN: 9781934137963


ISBN: 9781934137970

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“Invite[s] underlining, re-reading, and reading aloud. . . . Pritchard [is] a beautifully descriptive stylist and deeply committed artist. . . . A Solemn Pleasure is not only a great way for readers to meet [her], but an excellent choice to mark the launch of Bellevue Literary Press’ new series, The Art of the Essay.”

Rain Taxi Review of Books

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“Altogether magnificent. . . . [The essay “Spirit and Vision”] bears that cynicism-disarming quality of a commencement address and enchants the psyche like an incantation. . . . [Pritchard] ends the piece like one might a commencement address—and if this were one, it would certainly be among the greatest commencement addresses of all time. . . . Complement A Solemn Pleasure, seriously pleasurable in its entirety, with Susan Sontag’s advice to writers, Virginia Woolf on writing and self-doubt, and Cheryl Strayed’s no-nonsense wisdom on the craft.”

Maria Popova, Marginalian

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“Pritchard once again validates the assertion that all true art is moral, as it instructs by seeking to improve life.”

World Literature Today

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“Pritchard’s essay collection is one to keep by your bedside to read again and again. Like Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, Pritchard plumbs the depths of why we write, in order to uncover the important reasons we need to write. . . . This book will give you super powers.”

Atticus Review

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“A spirited, intelligent, wide-ranging exploration of the joys, frustrations, and trials of the life of the writer.”

Colorado Review

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“A fine, delicate essayist. . . . Pritchard’s writing is inspiring.”

Literary Hub

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“Elegant, funny. . . . Pritchard’s own prose embodies her conviction that great writing involves both imagining the inner life of its subjects and a ‘bearing witness’ to the human condition and the transcendent mystery that surrounds it.”

Image: Art, Faith, Mystery

“Ethically rich. . . . Pay attention to the surge of [Pritchard’s] mind and the spiritual energy she demonstrates.”

Spirituality & Practice

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“As insightful as it is engaging. . . . Pritchard will make you cry, think, and laugh; each essay is filled with wit and wisdom. . . . A great read for writers, readers looking for enlightenment, and those who savor nonfiction that explores the spiritual through the everyday.”

Library Journal (starred review)

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“Moving. . . . Readers will treasure the book’s numerous memorable moments.”

Publishers Weekly

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“Heartfelt . . . bear[s] powerful witness to suffering, compassion, and transcendence.”

Kirkus Reviews

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“From grief to daily rituals to the shape of a dachshund, Pritchard insightfully connects the most obscure of subjects to reveal gems of truth about the human experience.”

Foreword Reviews

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“Full of lovely sentences that often achieve an almost mystical, spiritual power.”


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“Gorgeous and moving. . . . Each of these essays confirms that to write is to think and feel, to take part in the profound and sacred act of witness. Read together—and the book is so arresting that many readers will finish it in a single sitting—the essays amount to a clear and irrefutable mandate for empathy.”

Bret Anthony Johnston (from the foreword)

“‘Great writers are witnesses to the spirit of their age,’ Pritchard declares. And in her splendid collection of essays, A Solemn Pleasure, she bears witness to matters great and small, from the quotidian joys of a borrowed room in London to the life and example of Georgia O’Keeffe to the plight of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Art is for her ‘a form of active prayer,’ which leads her to journey both inward and outward, notably to Afghanistan, where the consequences of the war on terror become tragically clear. This is the spirit of our age, gracefully rendered in Pritchard’s essays, which will stand the test of time.”

Christopher Merrill, director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa and author of The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War

“Pritchard has written an incredible book that is an important testament to the role of the writer as society’s moral and spiritual compass. In A Solemn Pleasure, Pritchard meshes the personal with the political in a bold and deeply honest composition that will make every reader a more compassionate human being. This book is written from the heart. It will refresh your passions and inspire the deepest yearnings of your soul. I found myself underlining, taking notes, and feeling inspired to write.”

Jen Percy, author of Demon Camp

“[A Solemn Pleasure] may be the handbook of the modern writer.”

Brookline Booksmith Small Press Book Club at GrubStreet

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The Art of the Essay series

In an essay entitled “Spirit and Vision” Melissa Pritchard poses the question: “Why write?” Her answer reverberates throughout A Solemn Pleasure, presenting an undeniable case for both the power of language and the nurturing constancy of the writing life. Whether describing the deeply interior imaginative life required to write fiction, searching for the lost legacy of American literature as embodied by Walt Whitman, being embedded with a young female GI in Afghanistan, traveling with Ethiopian tribes, or revealing the heartrending story of her informally adopted son William, a former Sudanese child slave, this is nonfiction vividly engaged with the world. In these fifteen essays, Pritchard shares her passion for writing and storytelling that educates, honors, and inspires.

A Solemn Pleasure is the inaugural title in Bellevue Literary Press’ The Art of the Essay series, which features compelling, creative nonfiction from accomplished writers of fiction while demonstrating the Bellevue Literary Press belief that fine literature knows no boundaries of genre or imagination.

Foreword by Bret Anthony Johnston.

Firecracker Award Finalist 

Poets & Writers “Best Books for Writers” selection

Literary Hub “Best Books about Books” selection

Image: Art, Faith, Mystery “Top Ten of the Year” selection

Publishers Weekly “Top 10: Literary Biographies, Essays & Criticism” selection

Foreword Reviews “Books for Grads” selection

Brookline Booksmith Small Press Book Club selection

Eighth Day Books New & Notable selection

Excerpt from A Solemn Pleasure

A Solemn Pleasure is being called “altogether magnificent” (Marginalian), a “best book for writers” (Poets & Writers), a “best book about books” (Literary Hub), a book that will help graduates change the world (Foreword Reviews), and one that “may be the handbook of the modern writer” (Brookline Booksmith Small Press Book Club).

Melissa Pritchard discusses A Solemn Pleasure on PBS’s Arizona Horizon and shares the stories behind the essays on TrojanVision News.

In O, The Oprah Magazine, read Melissa Pritchard’s tribute to Ashton Goodman, the young, female US soldier she was embedded with in Afghanistan (from the essay “Finding Ashton”) and her homage to Simon, her beloved Dachshund (from the essay “Doxology”).

Watch Melissa Pritchard discuss her essay about former Sudanese child slave William Mawwin and the extraordinary way their lives came together on the Wilson Center’s Dialogue TV.