ALICE STEINBACH, whose work at the Baltimore Sun was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing, has been a freelance writer since 1999. Currently a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow, she has taught journalism and writing at Princeton University, Washington and Lee University, and Loyola College. She lives in Baltimore.
Steinbach, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, took a leave of absence from the Baltimore Sun six years ago to travel around the world; the result of those travels was her previous book, Without Reservations. After publication, she quit her job and set out around the world again, this time as a self-proclaimed "informal student." Her lessons included studying French cooking at the Ritz in Paris, traditional Japanese arts in Kyoto, gardening in Provence, Border-collie training in Scotland, and art and architecture in Havana. Here she gives us the details of her studies and her accomplishments, occasionally reminding us that it is often the experience of learning that teaches us the most. The beauty of her narrative, however, lies in her luminous descriptions. She can brilliantly sketch a street scene or landscape or cafe, but it is her perceptive looks into the lives and minds and hearts of the people she meets through her studies that bring her settings to life and make this collection of essays truly engaging. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/03.]-Rita Simmons, Sterling Heights P.L., MI Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Steinbach had so much fun running off to Europe to find herself, as recounted in her first book (Without Reservations), she decided to quit her job writing for the Baltimore Sun and devote herself to similar educational adventures. Following the advice of Japanese poet Basho ("To learn of the pine, go to the pine"), Steinbach takes off again and recounts eight endeavors, including studying French cooking in Paris, attending a Jane Austen convention in England and meeting geishas in Kyoto. She captures the uniqueness of each setting, aided by a sharply curious sensibility she claims stems as much from her childhood admiration for Nancy Drew as from her reportorial training. That spirit of openness also enables her to strike up many spontaneous conversations easily, frequently launching other discoveries. A search for a bonsai garden in Florence, for example, winds up becoming a tour of several palaces normally closed to the public, which leads to an old priest's tale of rescuing priceless paintings from a flood. Yet for all Steinbach's attention to others, her account remains resolutely personal, as her experiences unleash bittersweet childhood memories, and an ambiguously romantic relationship with a Japanese gentleman is never far from her thoughts. Her stories are powerfully seductive to anyone who's ever been tempted to get up and go, following interests wherever they may lead. Even during the occasional setbacks, from language barriers to confusing geographies, Steinbach makes such a life look highly desirable. Agent, Gail Ross. (On sale Apr. 6) Forecast: Steinbach's book could be a reading group favorite. The publisher plans to advertise and target literary and women's interest Web sites and book clubs. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
"Highly recommended . . . The beauty of [Steinbach's] narrative . . . lies in her luminous descriptions. . . . But it is her perceptive looks into the lives and minds and hearts of the people she meets through her studies that bring her settings to life and make this collection of essays truly engaging."
"Steinbach makes such a life look highly desirable. . . . Her stories are powerfully seductive to anyone who's ever been tempted to get up and go, following interests wherever they may lead."
"A delicious experience . . . This book will entertain, educate and perhaps inspire readers to make their own journeys."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"I loved Educating Alice....Alice Steinbach may visit some of the world's most popular tourist cities but she does not follow the ordinary tourist route. Oh no! Down the back alleys Alice Steinbach goes, slipping through side doors and riding on employees-only elevators; dropping huge, slippery salmon on the floor of the Ritz Escoffier Ecole de Gastronomie Francaise and charming retired geishas into showing her their prized kimonos, wrapped in rice paper and stowed in boxes in the attic. Ms. Steinbach must be who Henry James imagined when he advised novelists to try to become 'one upon whom nothing is lost.'"
--Sarah Pritchard, author of Crackpots: A Novel
"In these uncertain times, the smart thing to do is stay home and read Educating Alice: Adventures of a Curious Woman. Alice Steinbach has more fun than anybody, whether chasing sheep in Scotland, or taking cooking lessons at the Ritz in Paris, or swinging to a salsa beat in a down-at-the-heel cafe in Havanna, or taking a writing course in Prague, or studying landscape architecture in Provence, etc. etc. etc.--- Alice's etceteras are limitless, and what all of us, surely, have always wanted to do ourselves. What is more, no matter what she does or who she sees or how hilarious the encounter, she is a lady to her toes."
--Jane Geniesse, author of Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark
"A brisk and companionate tour of the Paris Ritz, ancient streets of Kyoto, the Scottish Highlands, inner Prague and Renaissance Florence, in search of the secrets of French cooking, Japanese dance, sheepherding, writing and painting. Alice Steinbach's travel memoir serves up, in savory detail, the tricks and ingredients of these trades, even as she reveals steps in the intimate dance of an epistolary romance of her own."
--Jean McGarry, Chair of the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars