Moses, Kate 1962-
MOSES, Kate 1962-
Born 1962, in San Francisco, CA; daughter of Kathleen Hills Wagner and William John Moses (an attorney); married Gary Kamiya (a journalist and executive editor of Salon.com); children: Zachary, Celeste. Ethnicity: "European and Japanese ancestry." Education: University of the Pacific, B.A. (English), 1984. Politics: Democrat.
Writer and editor. North Point Press, senior editor; Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA, literary director; Salon.com, San Francisco, senior editor, contributing writer, and cofounder of feature "Mothers Who Think," 1997-2000.
Affiliate artist, Headlands Center for the Arts, 1995-98; Everett Helm research fellowship, Lilly Library, Indiana University, 2000.
(Editor, with Camille Peri) Mothers Who Think: Tales of Real-Life Parenthood, Villard (New York, NY), 1999.
Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
WORK IN PROGRESS:
A novel, and another "Mothers" anthology, HarperCollins (New York, NY), expected publication date, 2005.
Kate Moses is the author of Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath, as well as an editor. Beginning in 1997, Moses worked as an editor for Salon.com, where she and Camille Peri created the feature "Mothers Who Think." The essays that find their way into this feature go far beyond the safe, traditional topics typically featured in women's magazines. Instead, the editors select candid pieces that often tackle tough, emotion-filled subjects of interest to readers concerned with the raising of the next generation. Contributors have included familiar names like Anne Lamott, Susie Bright, Stephanie Coontz, and Chitra Divakaruni. Moses and Peri took the best of these features and supplemented them with new essays by Sallie Tisdale, Nora Okja Keller, Beth Kephart, Alex Witchel, and others to create Mothers Who Think: Tales of Real-Life Parenthood. Anne Lamott wrote in the foreword that in some of the forty essays, the mothers "just tell the truth; and this, in the end, is all that any of us has to offer."
BookPage reviewer Farrar Richardson wrote that the essays "are written not by women attempting to impress others with heavyweight thinking, but by mothers who contemplate the dramatic effects mothering has on every aspect of their lives and all those who share them." Austin Chronicle's Robin Bradford called Mothers Who Think "a must-read for anyone contemplating motherhood and a bible for all of us whose lives have been warped, splendored, and expanded by our dear little ones."
Moses did extensive research into the life of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) in writing Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath. The book was published on the fortieth anniversary of Plath's death, and each of the chapters is named for one of the forty-one poems of Ariel, the collection Plath was working on when she took her own life. Kate Bolick stated in the New York Times Book Review that the novel is "about ambition, motherhood, identity, and love. The real story, though, is that of a woman finally finding her muse."
In the fall of 1961, Plath moved to a country house in Devon with her husband, author Ted Hughes, and their two children. Plath spent the following year improving the garden, tending her beehives and apple trees, and alternating this work with her writing. It is in her poem "Wintering" that she wrote of her bees, their life cycle, and the cold of winter. When her husband's affair with Assia Wevill became public knowledge, Plath threw herself into her work, writing thirty poems in thirty days. She moved in December with her children to a London flat once owned by William Butler Yeats, where she attempted to finalize the manuscript of Ariel and decide on the course of her life, all the while nursing her sick children through the brutal London winter. A Publishers Weekly reviewer said "Moses catches the quality of English life, particularly its austere inconveniences and its moody weather, with remarkable fluency, and her habitation of Plath's body and mind feels complete."
Plath already had one published collection, The Colossus, and The Bell Jar, in which she captured her depression and suicide attempt while attending Smith College, was released in January 1963. But within weeks, Plath turned on the gas in the kitchen stove and committed suicide. She was thirty years old. The poems she left behind reflected the pain of her failed marriage.
Mary Whipple reviewed Wintering for MostlyFiction.com, writing that "Moses recreates the heart, soul, and psyche of Sylvia Plath, a feat that is so extraordinary and so realistic in its execution that it is difficult to know where to start in describing it." Whipple noted the completeness of the author's research, finding that "so completely did she distill this material that the reader of the novel feels as if she or he is actually entering the mind of Plath, a Plath who is speaking and reminiscing, conjuring up events, aching, dreaming, and hoping. Astonishingly, Moses achieves this without ever deviating from a third person narrative and without ever speaking as Plath herself."
Hughes edited Plath's poems and determined the order in which they would appear in Ariel. He removed some he felt might be controversial and replaced them with others Plath had not intended for that volume. Moses returns them to their original order in her novel.
In Women's Review of Books, Sandra Gilbert found the book to be "nuanced and intelligent, beautifully detailed and thoughtfully imagined." Gilbert felt that Moses is being neither voyeuristic nor exploitative in writing about Plath, adding that "for one thing, Wintering doesn't dwell on the more lubricious aspects of the Sylvia-Ted-Assia love triangle. For another, Moses rigorously avoids exhibiting the poet in her deeply suicidal moments, emphasizing instead Plath's struggle to be strong and free, as in this almost programmatically ecstatic representation of the writer's birthday ride on the famous horse Ariel: 'She is no daughter, no mother, no wife. She is herself, held by nothing under the pure blue dome of sky, attended by granite and sheep and curious ponies, trilling warblers drunk on sloes in the bushes.'" A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Wintering "rich and harrowing, told with none of the sensationalism or cheap sentiment that has undermined so many accounts of Plath's life and end."
Moses told CA: "As a small child, I decided I wanted to become a 'storyteller' while listening to the women in my mother's family, all great practitioners of the oral tradition whose stories have since been lost to all but memory—I knew I would write my stories down, to keep them safe and to bring them back when I needed them. There is no one writer who I think of as a particular influence, but women are still a primary resource for my imagination, whether they are writers or not.
"I think of my writing process as highly internalized; I work out a lot in my head before I ever sit down to write. I always have a journal with me to take notes and record ideas, after learning from experience that even the best ideas evaporate if they aren't recorded right away.
"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is that I can! I have great respect for anyone who has the perseverance and the breadth of imagination to sustain an idea and get it into words.
"The first Mothers Who Think anthology is a sentimental favorite, but ownership of that book and the experience of putting it together is something that I share not just with my coeditor and friend, Camille Peri, but also with the thirty-some women who contributed to the book and who have since become a network of personal and professional support for each other. Wintering, though, is my first novel, a book I dreamed about and struggled toward for many years, and belongs only to me in terms of authorship; nothing else I do will ever quite touch the experience of completing that story and feeling that I had risen to the goals I set for myself in telling it.
"I hope both of my books thus far will continue to afford recognition for the difficult job of being a mother and maintaining a rich internal life. In the case of Wintering in particular, I hope that readers will be moved to go back to Sylvia Plath's poetry."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Austin Chronicle, May 10, 1999, Robin Bradford, review of Mothers Who Think: Tales of Real-Life Parenthood.
Book, March-April, 2003, Penelope Mesic, review of Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath, p. 82.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2002, review of Wintering, p. 1724.
Library Journal, January, 2003, David Hellman, review of Wintering, p. 157.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, January 26, 2003, Regina Marler, review of Wintering, p. R5.
New York Times Book Review, March 9, 2003, Kate Bolick, review of Wintering, p. 22.
Publishers Weekly, December 23, 2002, review of Wintering, p. 45.
Women's Review of Books, March, 2003, Sandra Gilbert, review of Wintering.
BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (May, 1999), Farrar Richardson, review of Mothers Who Think.
Curled up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (November 16, 2003), Luan Gaines, review of Wintering.
Forward,http://www.forward.ospreydesign.com/ (winter, 2003), interview with Kate Moses.
Kate Moses Home Page,http://www.katemoses.com (November 16, 2003).