Nancy Mairs, born by accident of war in Long Beach, California, grew up north of Boston. In 1964, she received an A.B. cum laude from Wheaton College (Norton, Massachusetts), which made her a Doctor of Humane Letters thirty years later. She did editorial work at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard Law School before moving to Tucson, Arizona, where she earned an M.F.A. in creative writing (poetry) in 1975 and a Ph.D. in English literature (with a minor in English education) in 1984 from the University of Arizona. She has taught writing and literature at Salpointe Catholic High School, the University of Arizona, and the University of California at Los Angeles.
She and her husband, George, a retired high-school English teacher, continue to live in Tucson, though they make public appearances throughout the country. A Research Associate with the Southwest Institute for Research on Women, she also serves on the Committee on Disability Issues of the Modern Languages Association, the Commission on the New Aging of the Pima Council on Aging, and the board of the Arizona Center for Disability Law.
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A focused personal and ethical examination of life in the face of death, by one of our most acclaimed essayists.
"Nancy Mairs writes knowingly, even lovingly, about a subject most of us seek to avoid: death and its essential place in life. Her gripping meditations. . . both comfort and provoke with their spiritual strength and hard-won wisdom." --O Magazine
"The ten essays in Nancy Mairs"s A Troubled Guest . . . radiate the truest kinds of insight about life, illness, death, and above all, love." --Elle Magazine
"Through these evocative and often affecting essays, Mairs charts a territory that defines the corporeal and the spiritual, delineating as much about how we live as how we die." --Publishers Weekly
"In clear, unaffected prose that quickly establishes --along with her candor--an intimacy with the reader, Mairs begins by explaining her feelings toward her own impending death. . . . Not self-help by any stretch, but it will be of interest to anyone recently touched by death." --Kirkus Reviews
With eloquence, passion, and humor, Nancy Mairs articulates, in a series of ten essays, the realities of a life consigned to gazing at navels other than her own. This powerful, beautifully written book is highly recommended . . . starred, Library Journal For years now, with the progression of her multiple sclerosis, essayist Nancy Mairs has lived in a wheelchair. From this distinctive perspective, she has written provocatively, courageously, and to great acclaim about marriage, faith, art, and illness. Here she writes about disability and the way it shapes a life. Sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreakingly poignant, this is a book that is ultimately about the celebration of life.
In this book of essays, Nancy Mairs beautifully portrays her individual difficulties and triumphs as well as the ultimate resilience of the human spirit. With her characteristic blend of startling honesty, wit, and insight, Mairs explores the challenges of living as fully as possible while gradually becoming more and more physically crippled, and truly makes sense of, and celebrates, what it is to be human.
Written over the last several years, many of the essays in Carnal Acts focus on what it means to "cope" with multiple sclerosis, the most conspicuous and consuming aspect of Nancy Mairs' life. But Mairs offers more than this piece of her experience-she reveals her inner life as a writer, wife, and mother, and then looks outward to discuss the nature of female discourse (polite and impolite); civil disobedience; and, finally, what it is to live full of gratitude and excitement despite the struggles and hardships that are a part of all day-to-day experience.
What does it mean to be a woman in a patriarchal world-a world where male interests, pursuits, and values create the cultural standards by which human ideas and actions are judged?
For Nancy Mairs, this question provides the focus for a riveting collection of essays in which she applies recent feminist concepts to her own life. Add to this premise the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis and agoraphobia, and Mairs' life takes on a greater urgency than that of most women. Walking the line between acceptance and denial of the world, Mairs writes of the joy and romance and the trauma of rape, the despair of institutionalization and the tenderness of motherhood. Ultimately, she shares her love of writing, and does so in prose that demonstrates her already proven talents as a poet.