Karen Christensen

About Karen Christensen

Karen Christensen is an entrepreneur, environmentalist, and scholar who writes about the many ways women have gained and wielded power. She is the owner and CEO of Berkshire Publishing Group, a former trustee of the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Press, a member of the National Committee on US-China Relations, and the founder of the Train Campaign. Subscribe to Karen’s Letter @Substack https://karenchristensen.substack.com or try her Home Ecology newsletter. She can also be found on Twitter @karenchristenze.

The only thing I like about driving

I drive very little, as little as I can, but I have discovered one great thing about time behind a wheel: listening to audio books. I have always said I preferred to read on the page, and audio books seemed slow. The recent discovery is that classic books I've read before are fresh and different when read aloud. Pride & Prejudice was one, and I'm now listening to The Mill on the Floss and realizing just how funny George Eliot is. I did not grasp her humor before, while now I find myself [...]

January 27th, 2024|Categories: karenchristenze-blog|

Book clubs & third places

I've been asked if book clubs can be third places. Not exactly, but there is a connection worth exploring. I was delighted to hear that a book club in Indiana (the state where I was born, making me a Hoosier, I guess) will be discussing The Great Good Place next month. Their order of 20 copies encouraged me to think about discussion questions, and we'll soon have materials for book clubs. I hope to get some feedback, too, for the new edition.

January 27th, 2024|Categories: karenchristenze-blog, Third Places|

Dinner with Henry Kissinger

Share Karen's Letter Henry Kissinger was looking into my eyes as he talked about AI and the future of US-China relations. I had no choice: I nodded thoughtfully and kept my gaze on him, ignoring my salad. He was talking directly across the table to me for a simple reason: he couldn't see anyone else. The room was dim, and the dining table was crowded with flower arrangements. He needed an audience, and I was it. I confess: I practiced the kind of vivacious listening that women through the ages [...]

December 14th, 2023|Categories: Karen's Letter|

Valerie Eliot and the making of CATS the Musical

When I started working for Valerie Eliot in 1986, the musical Cats was only a few years into its record-breaking run in London, but it had already made Valerie a wealthy woman. She was rather defensive about this success. She loved having the money, no doubt; she was good with money and would allude to decisions about her stock portfolio with that confidence that people have when they are talking about something they understand and enjoy. But she didn't want to appear crass or merely commercial, perhaps a lingering anxiety [...]

November 8th, 2023|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , |

Telling Our Stories, Writing Our Lives

Originally published as a Berkshire Publishing newsletter in November 2016. It continues to be relevant, especially as I discover more examples of Valerie (Mrs. T. S.) Eliot's storytelling. Should we call it fabrication, mythmaking, or just plain lying?  Here's the latest example, from Alan Bennett's memoir Keeping On Keeping On: I only met her a couple of times, though was persuaded to attend her funeral if only because, through her family coming to our shop, I had known her longest—if in some respects least. She used to claim that she [...]

September 30th, 2023|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , , , |

What do Valerie Eliot’s clothes tell us?

I hadn’t realized how useful clothes can be in understanding a life until I talked to Sarah Byrd, a fashion historian in New York. This post was written soon after that meeting in April 2019. I'm republishing it now after having discussed the subject with several people at the International T. S. Eliot Society's annual meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2023. We got into the subject of TSE's clothing choices, too, and how he worked so hard to dress like an English gentleman. Sarah Byrd's contention is that fashion is [...]

September 28th, 2023|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , , |