Stay Me, Oh Comfort Me

M. F. K. Fisher is perhaps best known for her writing about food. Nevertheless, her ability to make experience palpable, to describe the everyday and the extraordinary, transcends whatever genre she chooses to work in. She reveals everything with a wonderful eye and sense of taste, combing the best talents of a reporter and a novelist.

Fisher was able to put together this book shortly before she died in 1992. She realized that biographers and critics would have their own say on her life and work, and she wanted to get there first, so to speak, to present the feel of events as she wrote about them. It is likely that she wanted to have on record her own interpretation of the breakup of her first marriage before it and other intimate matters fell into the hands of what must have seemed to her the rude biographer.

Fisher presents an almost documentary record of what it was like to return to Depression-era America from her sojourn as a student and budding writer in France. This journal and her stories reveal her still struggling to find her metier as a writer. She already has the equipment; she has merely to discover how best to use it.

Fisher’s writing is wonderfully sensory; she holds the world in her words. In a journal entry for September 8, 1933, she refers to the shifting currents of the last three days and concludes: “It makes the thickness of a blue rug and the hard beauty of zinnias in a bowl seem more than ever things to feel and see.” Her esthetic is ravishing and constantly appealing—even in simple things like her description of watermelon’s “icy crisp flesh, its delicate faded taste.”