(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Much of this journal represents May Sarton’s recovery and rejuvenation after a difficult year characterized by illness and frailty—as reflected in her previous journal, Endgame: A Journal of the Seventy-ninth Year. In that journal, Sarton lacked the energy to work in her beloved garden, and she tired after only an hour or two of creative activity. She suffered several losses, including the deaths of old friends and lovers, a loss of independence and autonomy, and a loss of identity. She felt that the May Sarton people had come to know was now a stranger, someone very old and ill. She ended Endgame on her birthday, May 3, and she begins Encore two days later.

The first sign of Sarton’s rejuvenation appears in her response to her garden in the late spring on Maine’s coast. To Sarton, being able to work in the garden again is a major accomplishment after a year of frailty and medical concerns. Her garden represents an evolving, ever-changing work of art. She brings flowers in the house and is heartened by the blooms.

Sarton’s journal reveals her strengths and values in her old age. She is committed to the ideals of friendship, and many of the peak times in her year are based upon renewing several friendships by visiting old friends. She is a dedicated letter writer and maintains other longtime friendships through her correspondence. She is a voracious reader of literature and includes numerous passages of prose and poetry that have moved her. She continues to evolve as a person and refines her points of views on key social and political concerns.

Throughout the journal, her deepest friendship is with Susan Sherman, a professor of English who lives in New...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Berman, Harry J. “May Sarton and the Tensions of Attachment.” In Integrating the Aging Self: Personal Journals of Later Life. New York: Springer, 1994.

Blouin, Lenora P. May Sarton: A Bibliography. 2d ed. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 2000.

Braham, Jeanne. Crucial Conversations: Interpreting Contemporary American Literary Autobiographies by Women. New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University, 1995.

Fulk, Mark. Understanding May Sarton. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001.

Ingersoll, Earl, ed. Conversations with May Sarton. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1991.

Kallet, Marilyn, ed. A House of Gathering: Poets on May Sarton’s Poetry. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1993.

Peters, Margot. May Sarton: A Biography. New York: Knopf, 1997.

Sherman, Susan, ed. May Sarton: Selected Letters. 2 vols. New York: Norton, 1997-2000.

Swartzlander, Susan, and Marilyn R. Mumford, eds. That Great Sanity: Critical Essays on May Sarton. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992.