What if I told you some of the most enlightened women I knew in youth took to the beach and spread oil across their shining décolletage in order to receive the divine? To place themselves in the present and in the path of nature, gazing for hours at an uninterrupted horizon?
Think of Buddhist monks in Tibet sitting cross-legged and naked in the wild, practicing g tummo, the art of inner fire, drying wet sheets on their bodies, melting snow with their minds. It is a matter of radiance and belief, harnessing the power of breath.
Fans of Megan Mayhew Bergman’s first short-story collection, Birds of a Lesser Paradise, which appeared in 2012, have been looking forward to her second collection ever since. The premise of Bergman’s new book, Almost Famous Women, is immediately intriguing. Bergman culled through the annals of history to locate women who brushed up against fame, thanks to proximity to famous people or now-forgotten accomplishments. Publisher’s Weekly commended her for this “feminist reclamation” of narratives largely ignored; a compilation of 13 fictionalized tales of women including James Joyce’s daughter, Lucia; Butterfly McQueen, the actress who played Prissy in “Gone with the Wind”; Allegra Byron, Lord Byron’s cast-off daughter; and Dolly Wilde, Oscar Wilde’s impetuous, drug-addled, niece.