Trollope: Toast & Marital Troubles

I love Anthony Trollope's novels. I am reading Orley Farm and find that one of his topics is male infidelity, or at least the pursuit of what he calls "strange goddesses." He explains the situation from the point of view of each of the characters, which is interesting in itself: a middle-aged Victorian man putting himself in the mind of a long-suffering wife. But what I really appreciate is the way he conveys some of this in homely examples. Here's one: In the course of the evening the footman in livery [...]

January 26th, 2022|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|

Mary Beard’s Women & Power

I’ve just read a tiny hardcover book called Women & Power: A Manifesto by the celebrity classics scholar Mary Beard. It consists of two edited speeches with black-and-white illustrations (I’ve pulled the color versions of a couple of them for this post) and sells at US$15.95. I had high expectations. “A Manifesto” sounds quite definitive, doesn’t it? But in the end Beard simply says we don’t really have a model for women and power. While I am not ready to introduce my own manifesto, I want to point out two [...]

January 23rd, 2022|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|

Remembering Rosemary Goad of Faber & Faber

Rosemary Goad, the first woman to become a director of Faber & Faber, died in October (obituary here, paywalled). I originally planned to go to the memorial service on 17 December with one of her long-time friends, a former Faber secretary, but I had to cancel my flight because of the developing Omicron situation. Fortunately, the church streams its services and I was able to watch and listen. In his eulogy to Rosemary, the author and former Faber director Robert McCrum referred to Rosemary's talking about the days when she [...]

January 23rd, 2022|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|

Shanghai Book Review interview by QIU Xiaolong

This article appeared in Chinese in the Shanghai Book Review on 25 September, but I didn't see it until I woke up on the 26th, my birthday as well as T. S. Eliot's. It's wonderful to have it in Chinese, of course, because I've already heard from colleagues in China who saw it, but for those who don't read Chinese and would prefer something other than the Google Translate version, here's our original English exchange, which Qiu Xialong then translated. The Chinese version includes photographs I provided. QIU Xiaolong: It's [...]

September 26th, 2021|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|

Male potency in biography, autobiography, & other writing

A few novels I've read of late* are full of details about male sexuality, which led me to ask why there is so little sexual detail in biographies. Even when it comes to extramarital affairs, there is rarely anything about the frustrations or needs or entitlements that led to relationships that were often life-changing for all involved. I knew of one biography, Carl Rollyson, who writes about such issues, and I had a fresh appreciation for Lewis Mumford's candor about his difficulties with premature ejaculation as a young husband and [...]

June 27th, 2021|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|

Sylvia Plath’s ghostly presence

I don’t know if Ted Hughes thanked his wife, Sylvia Plath, for typing in any of his acknowledgements, but he should have. She typed, and typed, and typed. She typed submissions for the poetry competitions that gave him early success. She typed the sets of poems he submitted to Fabers, which garnered the attention of T. S. Eliot, poet and publisher. But Plath herself was not published by Fabers until after her death in 1963, when Hughes, who had left her, negotiated a contract with Faber & Faber because he [...]

September 30th, 2020|Categories: Books, Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: |