Colette (1873 – 1954), the French author (born Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette) was as known for her writing as for her scandalous love life in the course of her prolific career. Rejecting society’s rules for female expression and sexuality, she overcame notoriety to be regarded as one of the most treasured authors in the canon of French literature.
Colette was no angel and certainly had her flaws in a full life of great accomplishment as well as of scandal. But from mid-career on, and beyond her lifetime she’s consistently been recognized as one of France’s most notable literary figures. Even today, her rebellion against societal norms for women and owning of her sexuality would be admired as progressive. In her time, she was nothing short of radical! Read More→
Emma by Jane Austen (1775 – 1817) was first published in December 1815. Before she began the novel, Austen wrote, “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” In the first sentence she introduces the main character as “Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich.” Emma is privileged and headstrong, greatly overestimating her matchmaking abilities, her imagination often leading her astray.
Emma was the last novel to be completed and published during Jane Austen’s life, as Persuasion, the last novel Austen wrote, was published posthumously. Emma has been adapted for several films, many television series, multiple stage plays, and has been the inspiration for several novels. Following are a collection of quotes from Emma, a novel that has been said to have “changed the face of fiction”: Read More→
It’s with great excitement that Literary Ladies Guide is helping to spread the news of a forthcoming exhibition at The Morgan Library & Museum (NYC): It’s Alive! Frankenstein at 200, on display from October 12, 2018 to January 27, 2019. It’s hard to overstate the impact of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein on literature as well as popular culture. This exhibit celebrates the 200th anniversary of the 1818 classic, published when its author was barely twenty-one.
If you’re planning a trip to New York City this fall or early winter, we urge you to take the opportunity to see this exhibit as well as get to know The Morgan Library & Museum, a beautiful oasis in the heart of the city, located at 225 Madison Avenue. Learn more about the exhibit here, and note some of the programs and events, including films and gallery talks. Read More→
Katherine Mansfield (October 14, 1888 – January 9, 1923), best known for her mastery of the short story form, was born in Wellington, New Zealand as Katherine Mansfield Beauchamp. She’s recognized for revolutionizing the modern English short story.
She enjoyed a comfortable childhood as part of a well-to-do family. A serious student of the cello, she first expected that music would be her career. Still, she found the colonial Edwardian atmosphere stifling and was inspired by rebels like Oscar Wilde. According to her biography, Katherine Mansfield: A Life by Antony Alpers, “she gave early evidence of the impulsiveness, the intensity, the impatience with convention which she would pour into her later life.” Read More→
Anne Sexton (1928 – 1974) proclaimed that she was “the only confessional poet” some time before committing suicide at the age of forty-five. Her good friend Sylvia Plath, whose poetry stands squarely in the realm of the confessional movement, might have taken issue with that. But it’s undoubtedly true that from the time she started writing poetry as a way to recover from a mental breakdown, her writing and her inner life were joined.
From that synergy emerged a period of wild creativity that resulted in more than a dozen collections and a Pulitzer Prize. Here’s a sampling of 10 poems by Anne Sexton, a woman who was as complex and talented an artist and woman as they come. Read More→
How many of us have read and re-read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? It’s one of those books that can be revisited at various stages in life and seen from a different perspective each time. Granted, none of Smith’s other three novels achieved quite the same success as A Tree, but they share the unifying themes of struggles in an urban setting, and above all, family bonds.
It’s always fascinating to learn how an author came to write a book that has become a beloved classic, especially in their own words. In the 1943 essay that follows, Betty Smith tells in her own words how she came to write A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. After years of struggling to be a successful writer (she had already achieved a measure of success as a playwright), Betty Smith struck literary gold, drawing on her own experience as the child of poor immigrants at the turn of the twentieth century. Read More→
We the Living (1936) was the first published novel by Ayn Rand, the ever-controversial Russian-American novelist. Set in post-revolutionary Russia, it reflected Rand’s opposition to communism and totalitarianism. It was, in her own estimation, her most semi-autobiographical. Though the reviews the book received upon its initial publication were mixed, it became a bestseller. This set the stage for the popularity of her subsequent novels, especially The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, which sold like gangbusters — even though critics were even less kind to them.
Many reviews of We the Living appreciated the direct look at the effects of Soviet policies on society, but felt the writing was heavy-handed. As the New York Times put it, the book seemed “slavishly warped to the dictates of propaganda.” Read More→
Bliss (1918) is a short story by Katherine Mansfield (1888 – 1923), the New Zealand-born British author recognized for revolutionizing the modern English short story form. Bliss is one of the works that put her on the literary map. Bertha Young, the main character, is a happy yet somewhat naïve young wife. The story takes place during a dinner party she hosts with her husband Harry.
One of the story’s themes is the classic one self-knowledge. But it was more of a rarity to explore queer themes in early twentieth-century literature. Mansfield herself was bisexual, and perhaps that was subtly alluded to with the character of Pearl Fulton, a guest to whom Bertha is drawn. However, Bertha is shaken out of her blissful state when she learns that her husband is having an affair with Pearl. Indeed, ignorance is bliss. This short story, which is in the public domain, is reprinted here in full. Read More→