Literary Musings

Anzia Yezierska on Her Struggle to Write Bread Givers (1925)

Anzia Yezierska (1890 – 1870), a Polish-born, Jewish-American writer was in her early teens when her family immigrated into the United States during the mass Jewish immigration between 1880 to 1924. They settled and lived in the immigrant neighborhood of the East side of Manhattan.

Bread Givers (1925) remains her best-known novel among a body of work that reflected the Jewish immigrant experience in America of the early 1900s. To set this kind of story down with a female perspective was quite a rarity in her time, reflecting the author’s  unflagging determination. Read More→

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Joan Didion: A Tribute to the Writer’s Writer

On December 23, 2021, when I learned that writer extraordinaire Joan Didion had passed away at the age of 87, I did what any friend would do: I canceled the day’s planned activities and concentrated on everything Didion.

For forty-four years, Joan Didion had been my own constant and portable companion: of course I needed to devote time to adjusting to the news of Didion’s passing. Our friendship was, obviously, one way. I can proclaim to know piles of intimate Didion facts and details, but of course Didion never knew me. 

But that’s besides the point. Didion will remain one of the most significant influences on my writing life: what one remembers about her is the strength and authority of her writing. No one could imitate her; indeed, whenever anyone tried to channel Didion they were detected immediately.  Read More→

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Recalling the Bobbsey Twins and Their Fictional Author, “Laura Lee Hope”

There are certain authors from one’s schoolgirl years who acquire an aura with their ability to hook the reader, leave her asking for more, and linger in the memory. One such author was Laura Lee Hope, with her many adventure tales featuring the Bobbsey Twins — two sets of fraternal twins, Nan and Bert, and the younger Flossie and Freddie.

Whilst the older twins are dark-haired and of serious disposition, the younger two are impish and blond. My favorite, as I recall, was Flossie. Her father often referred fondly to her as “my fat fairy.” In today’s children’s literature, it might not go down well for a child to be referred to as fat, even affectionately. 

In the early stories, the twins begin to grow older. Perhaps the idea of them overtaking the age of their readers was too risky. And so, the older twins were given the permanent age of twelve, while the younger twins remained forever six years old.   Read More→

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Fact and Fiction in All This, and Heaven Too: The 1938 Novel and 1940 Film

When it was freshly published in 1938, Rachel Field’s bestselling novel All This, and Heaven Too kept company on the shelf with other contemporary novels titled with allusions to Christianity but preoccupied with romance. Here we’ll be taking a look at the 1940 film All This, and Heaven Too  in the context of the novel that it was based on. 

Consider E.M. Delafield’s Thank Heaven Fasting (1932), in which the touch of Captain Lane’s hand has Monica muse: “This, surely, was love—the most wonderful thing in life.” Or Janie’s relationships and search for fulfillment in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). Or, soon after, the complicated social expectations in the courtship depicted in Gwethalyn Graham’s Earth and High Heaven (1944).

Indeed, the opening shots of the Warner Bros. film are of the sky—a heavenward if not beatific gaze. It’s a winter sky, presumably—as filming began February 8, 1940—with treetops caught in a tumultuous wind, and only a few leaves clinging to branches. Read More→

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Signed Genêt: Janet Flanner’s Letters from Paris

Janet Flanner (March 13, 1892 – November 7, 1978) was an American writer and journalist, best known for her fifty-year stint as The New Yorker’s Paris correspondent. Writing under the pen name Genêt, she became synonymous with the inter-war expatriate scene in Paris, and her prose style epitomized and influenced the magazine’s journalism to such an extent that it came to be known as “The New Yorker style.”

Over the years, her work for the magazine extended far beyond Paris into broader European politics and culture, encompassing a regular “London letter” and several one-off pieces from a war-scarred Germany.

Her legacy was such that even she was forced to acknowledge, towards the end of her life, that she had created “the form which all other foreign letters consolidated by copying my copy…” and Glenway Westcott called her “the foremost remaining expatriate writer of the Twenties.” Read More→

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