Hidden Lives, Hidden Wives – The Author 2019

Hidden Lives, Hidden Wives Karen Christensen Published in The Auth0r, Autumn 2019 It began with a Twitter hashtag: #thanksfortyping. For most of the twentieth century, even authors who composed on the typewriter needed a typist to prepare a clean final manuscript. Wives often did this work. A US historian at the University of Virginia, Bruce Holsinger, noticed that these wives were often not even given names when they were mentioned in a book’s acknowledgements. He began posting examples on Twitter, and people responded with examples of their own, of wives who not [...]

April 2nd, 2024|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|

CATS and the survival of Fabers

This is a continuation of the story about Valerie Eliot and the making of Cats, told here. Let's start with a typical description of Valerie Eliot’s widowhood: After his death on 4 January 1965, Valerie proved a sterling and inspirational guardian of Eliot's work. She inherited his shareholding in the publishers Faber and Faber and became an active member of the board. The 1974 facsimile of The Waste Land, which includes Ezra Pound's annotations and which she edited, has not been faulted. I could quibble about the way Eliot’s first wife, [...]

March 21st, 2024|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: |

Valerie Eliot and the making of CATS

Valerie Eliot’s contribution to Cats has been unsung, largely because of her own concern about how she was viewed as a guardian of her husband’s literary legacy. The wealth it generated has huge consequences for her personally, and I’ve been puzzling over this since not long after her death in 2012. I worked for Valerie during the years when she was enjoying her new wealth, at a time when Faber & Faber, the publishing house that was also profiting greatly from Cats, was nonetheless struggling to survive. I’m interested [...]

March 21st, 2024|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , |

Hideous Men and E Jean Carroll

From October 2019: This is E Jean Carroll, who has this week accused Donald Trump of assault and rape. I've admired her column for years, and went on her The Most Hideous Men in New York Walking Tour last month. The photo below left was taken on 19 May 2019 in front of the former Studio 54 before the group broke up and E Jean and I went to a bar to talk about publishing. She'd taken us to Trump Tower, but didn't breathe a word about what was coming [...]

March 20th, 2024|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|

Bill McNeill wrote my story

It was startling when Bill (William H.) McNeill said he wanted to write my life story, interviewing me with surgical precision. This was a dramatic experience for both of us because of a strange intersection in our lives that took place years before we met. Having a famous historian (and biographer) examine my life was alarming, but ultimately transformative. The conversations brought us closer, and it was a relief to talk about my long-ago affair with Kirkpatrick Sale, since Bill had had his own encounter with the man. And seeing [...]

March 18th, 2024|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|

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: , , , , |