W-3: A Memoir – Bette Howland
‘W-3 is one hell of a debut’ Lucy Scholes, Paris Review
‘At moments dazzlingly and daringly written’ Rachel Cooke, Observer
‘Howland is finally getting the recognition that she deserves’ Sarah Hughes, iNews
W-3 is a small psychiatric ward in a large university hospital, a world of pills and passes dispensed by an all-powerful staff, a world of veteran patients with grab-bags of tricks, a world of dishevelled, moment-to-moment existence on the edge of permanence. Bette Howland was one of those patients. In 1968, Howland was thirty-one, a single mother of two young sons, struggling to support her family on the part-time salary of a librarian; and labouring day and night at her typewriter to be a writer.
One afternoon, while staying at her friend Saul Bellow’s apartment, she swallowed a bottle of pills. W-3 is a vivid – and often surprisingly funny – portrait of the extraordinary community of Ward 3 and a record of a defining moment in a writer’s life. The book itself would be her salvation: she wrote herself out of the grave.
Originally published in 1974 and rediscovered forty years later, this is the first edition of W-3 to be published in the UK. With an original introduction by Yiyun Li, author of Where Reasons End. ‘For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin-real life.
But there was always some obstacle in the way . . .
At last it had dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.’