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|

To Cook A Wolf – Baking with M F K Fisher

I’m in a war-time, Victory Garden frame of mind. There is no actual food shortage and no prospect, it seems, of running out of food. But going to the shops has left us shaken: the crowds, the lack of awareness of what social distancing means (the guys standing close together in the produce department at Guido’s, chatting about how their kids’ schools have been closed - guess why, fellas?), and even the presence of sick people (the woman coughing in the checkout line at the Berkshire Coop - seriously?). Add [...]

March 22nd, 2020|Categories: At the Table|

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|

First Look at the Sealed Collection of Letters from T S Eliot to Emily Hale

Note: At Berkshire Bookworld, you'll find my interview with Sara Fitzgerald recorded 10 days after the opening of the collection. Click here to get the podcast. I first heard about the Emily Hale letters from Valerie Eliot herself, in 1986 or 1987. Valerie led me to believe that Hale had been a hanger-on whom T. S. Eliot had had to push away, who had exaggerated her relationship with him and placed the letters Eliot had written to her at Princeton against his wishes. I believed what she said, [...]

January 4th, 2020|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , , |

Telling Our Stories, Writing Our Lives: Valerie Eliot & Truth-telling

Originally published on the Berkshire Publishing blog in November 2016, and republished here in January 2020 because it is relevant to the opening of the Eliot letters to Emily Hale. My friend Emma once complimented me on an anecdote I’d told, saying, “I can dine out on that for years.” And there are a few stories about Emma and my days as housemates in London I still tell, especially the one about how we acted out the Lucan murder, on the stairs where it had taken place just a few [...]

January 4th, 2020|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , , , |

Valerie Eliot and the making of CATS

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 defensive about it, as she was about many things, and would use me as a sounding board. 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 [...]

December 19th, 2019|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , |