Male potency in biography, autobiography, & other writing

The thrillers 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 with [...]

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: |

The Social Life of Reading

I was involved in a forum conversation about print and digital books last week, which inspired me to take this photo of some of the books I was given by the family of a British biographer. The biographer herself, Carole Seymour-Jones, had died before we could meet, but she'd been very positive on the phone and her family offered me her books to help with my related project. They are full of her notes, occasional letters and receipts, and even a pencil marking a place. Another biographer, the late Deirdre Bair, [...]

April 18th, 2020|Categories: Books, Writing a Woman's Life|

The Love of a Good Woman

This is my account of the first day at Princeton, 2 January 2020, published in Time Present and in the T. S. Eliot Studies Annual, Volume 3, edited by John D. Morgenstern (General Editor), Julia E. Daniel, and John Whittier-Ferguson. I read T. S. Eliot’s first love letter to Emily Hale side by side with Daniel Bates, a Brooklyn-based stringer for the Daily Mail. After a few paragraphs we looked at each other, speechless. We had been surprised but not speechless when we read Emily Hale’s brief statement, her account [...]

April 16th, 2020|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|

The Princeton story continued

With several others who were at the Firestone Library at Princeton on 2 January, I've contributed a piece to Time Present,  the newsletter of the T. S. Eliot Society, which will then be published in a special forum in the T. S. Eliot Studies Annual, published by Clemson University Press. When I started working with Valerie Eliot in October 1986, I swore that I wasn't going to be sucked into the Eliot orbit. But the damned story followed me! I now swear that I couldn't help it, and when someone says, [...]

March 26th, 2020|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|

Books and Movies about the Wives of Famous Men

(Read main post on this topic.) Books about and by the wives, ex-wives, and lovers of famous men have become almost a literary genre. But why have they become so popular? These books often show the hidden contributions of women, and they help us understand our lives and our world. We want to read about the women who attracted those famous men, and we want to know what they experienced, and how it worked, and where it went wrong. And we want to know that we will be seen, recognized, [...]

January 15th, 2020|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|