Contributed by James Gaynor, author of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 61 Haiku (1,037 Syllables!): In my last post on this site, I shared three things I learned writing Pride and Prejudice in 61 Haiku (1,037 Syllables!) Shortly after that appeared, I was invited to Fordham University to talk to English Literature majors about my take on the poetry / intent of the 61 chapter-opening lines of Pride and & Prejudice.
I found the students particularly responded to my point about Austen’s use of “flutter” in the first line of Chapter 43. Read More→
Lillian Hellman, the legendary American playwright, was romantically involved with Dashiell Hammett for thirty years, though they never married. Hammett, a hard-drinking former detective, was best known for the classic detective novels, The Thin Man and The Maltese Falcon. Both writers were politically active, complex personalities. Though there’s no doubt about their relationship, Hellman’s memories of how things were have always been taken with a grain of salt, as have her other memoirs. Here in her own words, bearing the ring of truth, are some of those recollections of the long on and off love affair of Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett.
This excerpt is adapted from the 1999 Little, Brown edition of An Unfinished Woman by Lillian Hellman:
We met when I was twenty-four year old and he was thirty-six in a restaurant in Hollywood. The five-day drunk had left the wonderful face looking rumpled, and the very tall thin figure was tired and sagged. We talked of T.S. Eliot, and although I no longer remember what we said, and then went and sat in his car and talked at each other and over each other until it was daylight. We were to meet again a few weeks later and, after that, on and sometimes off again for the rest of his life and thirty years of mine. Read More→
There are so many great biographies of classic women authors — what to choose depends on which authors you love and want to know about. A great biography reveals much about the author’s inner lives as well as their often tumultuous public lives. This list of a dozen biographies is by no means definitive and nowhere near exhaustive — it’s simply a great place to start when you want to learn more about your favorite women writers of the recent past.
Becoming Jane Austen
In Becoming Jane Austen (2003), Jon Spence shows how events and people in the beloved British authors’ life influenced her fiction. This biographer argues that the tangled love stories Jane Austen tells came not just from her sharp observations and fertile imagination, but also from her own experiences. This biography was the basis of the 2007 film Becoming Jane. Read More→
Lillian Hellman, the legendary American playwright, met Dorothy Parker, known for her brittle poetry and acid wit, in 1931. Hellman, not yet famous, was with her longtime partner Dashiel Hammett at a New York party when Parker approached the couple, fell to her knees, and kissed Hammett’s hand. The scene made the couple uncomfortable, and Hellman never imagined she’d want to see Parker again, let alone befriend her. But when the two women met four years later, they clicked and became lifelong friends. Here, in Hellman’s own words from her 1969 memoir An Unfinished Woman, some observations about her friend Dorothy Parker:
“It was strange that we did like each other and that never through the years did two such difficult women ever have a quarrel, or even a mild, unpleasant word. Much, certainly, was against our friendship: we were not the same generation, we were not the same kind of writer, we had led and were to lead very different lives, often we didn’t like the same people or even the same books, but more important, we never liked the same men.” Read More→
If you’ve read Margaret Mitchell’s 1,000-plus page magnum opus multiple times but can’t enough of it, consider exploring these prequels and sequels to Gone With the Wind. They expand on the stories of the complicated characters who have gripped the imagination for decades. That said, if you link though to the book descriptions on Amazon, you’ll see that readers have had mixed reactions. In this case, looking for these in your library before making an investment!