Literary Musings

Fascinating Facts About Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963) was a gifted poet who on the surface seemed to have it all: ambition, brains, and beauty. But she was beset by a lifelong struggle with depression that led to suicide at the age of thirty.

Because most of her work was published after her untimely death, she wasn’t able to enjoy the fruits of her labors. Yet her place in the American literary canon is well deserved. Here are some facts about Sylvia Plath, some known well, others less so, but all contributing to a fascinating portrait of this beloved poet’s brief life: Read More→

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On First Reading Pride and Prejudice

I first read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in the spring of 2005, while my mother-in-law recuperated in rehab from a broken leg. A year earlier she moved in with my husband Bruce and me. It had been a difficult year, and she was soon to return. I wanted to make things easier for all of us, and was earnestly making lists of how to do that. “This time it will be different,” I told myself. And I turned back to Pride and Prejudice.

Flo Gibson narrates the Pride and Prejudice audio book. Flo (I think of her as Flo) pronounces the famous opening sentence: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” And off we went again. She never tired of reading to me and I never tired of listening. Read More→

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How Betty MacDonald’s Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle Came to the Page

Betty MacDonald (1907 – 1958) was an American author of humorous memoirs and children’s books. The Egg and I, her bestselling 1945 memoir of running a chicken farm in rural Washington State in the late 1920s, catapulted her to international fame. Her Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books for children were also hugely successful. From Paula Becker’s 2016 biography, Looking for Betty MacDonald: The Egg, the Plague, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and I, here’s the story of how Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle came to the page and became a series:

As sales of The Egg and I soared, Lippincott eagerly sought to capitalize on Betty’s success. Accordingly, fifteen months after Egg made its debut, the publisher introduced Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. The book was a collection of children’s stories about a wise, kind, magical woman who gently but firmly assisted errant children and their beleaguered parents. Betty dedicated Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle to her daughters, nieces, and nephews, “who are perfect angels and couldn’t possibly have been the inspiration for any of these stories.” Read More→

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8 Literary Love Affairs and Marriages

Relationships between brilliant writers were nearly always a tangle of complication and passion. Some couples preferred non-monogamous arrangements; others agreed that marriage was never to be part of the bargain. An intellectual bond was part of the attraction, and the glue that held many of these couples together.

Of the couples listed below, only the union of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning seemed like pure bliss. But even in their case, it was complicated. Her father was so dead-set against the marriage that he disinherited her. Read on for a capsule of 8 famed literary love affairs and marriages — truly, for better or worse. Read More→

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Sweet Lorraine — James Baldwin’s Tribute to Lorraine Hansberry

“Sweet Lorraine” is a love letter and tribute to Lorraine Hansberry by her friend and colleague, James Baldwin. It opens her posthumous book of collected writings, To Be Young, Gifted and Black (1969). Both were relatively young artists when they first met in the winter of 1958. Lorraine, then 28, came to the Actors’ Studio where the stage version of Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room was being workshopped. He was then 34.

Both were aware of one another’s work, and Lorraine would soon go on to defend her new friend Jimmy’s charge to introduce theater audiences to black and queer themes. Broadway producers, not surprisingly for the time, were uncomfortable with the content of Giovanni’s Room. As she would throughout her brief but blazingly brilliant career, Lorraine believed that the artist’s voice in whatever medium was to be as an agent for social change. The two bonded, for Lorraine was developing her own black, feminist, and queer politics. Read More→

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