Baroness Emma “Emmuska” Orczy

Baroness Emma Emmuska Orczy

Baroness Orczy (September 23, 1865 – November 12, 1947) was born Emma (or “Emmuska”) Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála Orczy de Orci in Tarnaörs, Heves County, Hungary. Both her parents had aristocratic ancestry. Her father Felix was a Baron and a composer and her mother, also named Emma, was a Countess and daughter of a member of the Hungarian parliament.

When revolution threatened Hungary in 1868, her parents were forced to flee their homeland and lived at various times in Budapest, Paris, and Brussels until 1880 when the family settled in London. There, Emma studied both art and music. Some of her art works were exhibited at the Royal Academy. Read More→

10 Banned Books by Classic Women Authors

The awakening by Kate Chopin cover

Each year in late September, Banned Books Week highlights books — usually critically acclaimed and beloved by readers — that have been frequently challenged or banned outright. Read on to find out why some classic books by women authors have been challenged or banned in times past — and even the not-so-distant past.

Some books have been challenged from the time they saw print, others banned outright by certain schools, parents groups, and religious organizations. Certain contemporary novels are still banned — particularly young adult books. These books often deal with controversial topics that resonate with an audience that struggle with those very issues. That’s one of the functions of literature, yet authorities still wish to be gatekeepers.

Classic works of literature have been banned from time immemorial, mostly due to objections to perceived “morality” or “decency” as decreed by societal and religious standards. Mostly, book banning is about preserving institutional biases that those in power are afraid to let go of. Read More→

Madeleine L’Engle’s Long Years of Rejection

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle original cover

I would challenge anyone to come up with a story that better illustrates the fine line between rejection and acceptance than Madeleine L’Engle’s:  “A Wrinkle in Time was almost never published,” she wrote. “You can’t name a major publisher who didn’t reject it. When we’d run through forty-odd publishers, my agent sent it back. We gave up.” Most editors thought it too dark for children.

After some time, L’Engle made contact with John Farrar of Farrar Straus Giroux through a friend of her mother’s, and the rest is publishing history. Published in 1962, A Wrinkle in Time is still in print, with millions of copies sold. It has the distinction of having won some of the most prestigious publishing awards, as well as being one of the most frequently banned books of all time. Read More→

Letty Fox: Her Luck by Christina Stead (1947) – a review

Letty Fox: Her Luck by Christina Stead

The Australian government refuse to import Letty Fox : Her Luck by native Aussie Christina Stead  (best known for The Man Who Loved Children) after this novel’s 1947 publication. It was declared “salacious” and “obscene.” A frank and witty coming of age story set between the Great Depression and World War II, this banned book didn’t meet much favor in the Australian press, either. Here’s one such review, which panned the novel thoroughly:

From the original review of Letty Fox: Her Luck in the Sydney Morning Herald, New South Wales, Australia, March 1947: Australian Christina Stead, in her eighth book, takes as her chief character Letty Fox, daughter of an actress mother and a charmingly shiftless father, and puts her through the hoops of indignantly self-justified immorality.

The Fox family, to which is allied the family of the Morgans by marriage, is a collection of eccentrics. So is the Morgan family. The two families apparently think of only two or three things: money comes first, then sex, then food, and having a good time. Read More→

Should writers draw characters and plots from real life?

Ivy Compton-Burnett

Dear Literary Ladies,
How much should real life supply a writer with characters and plots? Should we be looking for people to base our fictional characters on, and stories upon which to model our plots?

“I think that actual life supplies a writer with characters much less than is thought. Of course there must be a beginning to every conception, but so much change seems to take place in it at once, that almost anything comes to serve the purpose — a face of a stranger, a face in a portrait, almost a face in the fire.

And people in life hardly seem to be define enough to appear in print They are not good or bad enough or clever or stupid enough, or come or pitiful enough. They would have to be presented by means of detailed description, and would not come through in talk. I think that the reason why a person is often angered by a supposed portrait of himself, is that the author leaves in some recognizable attributes, while the conception has altered so much that the subject is justified in thinking there is no resemblance. Read More→

Quotes by P.L. Travers, Author of Mary Poppins

P.L. Travers (1899 – 1966) found inspiration for her writing as an avid reader of fairy tales and mythology. It’s no surprise, then, that she created the magical nanny, Mary Poppins (1934). After the original Mary Poppins book (always the most successful), there were several sequels, and of course, the famous 1964 Disney musical film.

The original Mary Poppins books were darker and more subversive than the Disney-fied version. And the film Saving Mr. Banks, depicting the making of Mary Poppins,  had Emma Thompson portraying the prickly author, who fought Disney on every detail. And that still didn’t tell the whole story of just what a pill Travers could be. Here are some quotes by P.L. Travers:

“A writer is, after all, only half his book. The other half is the reader and from the reader the writer learns.” (As quoted in The New York Times, July 2, 1978)

“You can ask me anything you like about my work, but I’ll never talk about myself.” (As quoted by Valerie Lawson, in an interview: “The Mystic Life of P.L. Travers”; May 7, 2003) Read More→