About the book
“Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you,” Heathcliff begs his dead Cathy in Wuthering Heights. He wants to be haunted—he insists on it. Randon Billings Noble does too. Instead of exorcising the ghosts of her past, she hopes for their cold hands to knock at the window, hopes for them to linger. Be with Me Always is a collection of essays that explore hauntedness, not through conventional ghost stories but by considering the way the ghosts of our pasts cling to our imaginations.
In a way, all good essays are about the things that haunt us, that get under our skin and into our minds and won’t leave until we have at least in some small way embraced or understood them. Here, Noble considers the ways she has been haunted—by a near-death experience, the gaze of a nude model, thoughts of widowhood, Anne Boleyn’s violent death, a book she can’t stop reading, a past lover who shadows her thoughts—in essays both pleasant and bitter, traditional and lyrical, but always evocative and unforgettable.
“Noble gives us essays that elevate the rawness of real life with an overarching theme of hauntedness. From hard choices to characters in classic literature, from a near-death experience to past lovers, she has written a book that appeals to readers of both modern pop culture magazines and Emily Brontë.”—Washington City Paper
“The essay, a peek into the nonfictionist’s internal life, is likewise a stay against loneliness, and, to that end, Noble and her collection are fascinating companions indeed … Be with Me Always is a singular addition to women’s nonfiction.”—River Teeth
“The essays in Randon Billings Noble’s dazzlingly honest debut collection explore the varied hauntings that linger through the years and even centuries of human action … They oscillate between fear and fascination with the roads not taken, the selves denied … Noble’s powerful debut invites us to make sense of our own wreckage. She asks what trails in our own wake and urges us to find opportunity to weave a patchwork self of lived and imaged experiences …”—Mid-American Review, Volume XXXIX, Number 2 (print only)
“This collection of essays is evocative of a ghost story and mystery in one. The essays make us aware of things around us (mirrors, birdsong, paintings, shell casings) or things inside us (grief, nostalgia, vanity, desire) that we didn’t see before but suddenly beckon us … [Noble] bring[s] us to the cusps of danger, and clarity, silence, betrayal and death, then return[s] us to ourselves with insight each time.”—Sweet: A Literary Confection
“Be with Me Always features a range of different types of essays: prose poetry, hermit crab essays, object essays, literary criticism, essays in list form, collage, braided essays, and more. By choosing forms that alternately illuminate, distort, or complicate the subject matter, the forms often speak to the reader as much as Noble’s actual narratives do … Overall, Be with Me Always is a collection of essays that longs for the known and unknown—a search through biologies and histories and literature for the ghosts that continue to haunt many of us, the ghosts that become unexpectedly sacred in the formation of her life and our own.”—Kenyon Review
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