A member of the Doubleday publishing clan, Neltje (who uses no last name), was born into the American literati, and was brought up in the moneyed world of cultural prestige. After a childhood marred by abuse, neglect and alcoholism, she married the artist John Sargent, and socialized with the likes of authors W. Somerset Maugham and Daphne du Maurier, New Yorker co-founder Raoul Fleishman, actress Gertrude Lawrence, philosopher Bertrand Russell and poet Theodore Roethke (who slept in their bathtub and once, during a manic bender, held a knife to her throat).
North of Crazy follows Neltje’s emotional recovery, as well as her part in the Doubleday family’s battles over money and power. After she divorced Sargent, she met a writer /painter from London whom she eventually married, and moved her family to Wyoming where her children went to a two room schoolhouse. Her memoir tells the tale of how she established herself with two small children in the middle of nowhere, while fighting with her family over Doubleday’s fortunes.
An abstract expressionist painter, Neltje uses as material her emotional response to the natural world, a theme that comes through in her book: “My cabin here at the base of the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming fronts on the rising sun yet allows me to watch light fall behind the granite peaks each evening from my living room chair.”
Bill Henderson, editor of the Pushcart Prize, calls North of Crazy “an epic and very personal memoir of riches to rags to spiritual and artistic triumph. Neltje’s life story is profoundly moving—and instructive. A classic, honest, and beautifully written memoir.”
Neltje’s reading is free and open to the public. It begins at 7 p.m. upstairs at Elk River Books, 120 N. Main St. For more information, call 333-2330.