Time Out of Mind by Rachel Field (1894 – 1942) was this American author’s first novel for adults, published in 1935. The following year, it won the National Book Award.
Field had been writing prose and poetry for children and young adults, as well as plays, since 1924. Her major breakthrough, up until Time Out of Mind was released, was the children’s book Hitty: Her First Hundred Years (1929), which won the Newbery Medal.
The story in Time Out of Mind is narrated in the first person by Kate Fernald. Kate, described as a hardy, “square-rigged” girl, comes to the Maine coast home of the Fortune family at the age of ten. She accompanies her mother, who serves as the housekeeper, and grows up with brother and sister Nat and Clarissa Fortune, forging a bond that would last a lifetime. The book begins: Read More→
The Dilettante by Edith Wharton is a short story that was first published in Harper’s Magazine in 1903, and then was part of The Descent of Man and Other Stories in 1904. Close on the heels of this short story collection, Wharton’s very successful first novel, The House of Mirth, was published in 1905, establishing her as a major figure in American literature.
The story centers around the relationship of Mrs. Vervain and Thursdale. Mrs. Vervain is in love with him, though he considers her just a friend (this possibly echoes some of Wharton’s own relationships with men). Arrogantly, Thursdale (the dilettante of the story’s title) even considers Mrs. Vervain something of his own creation. He describes her as “the finest material to work on,” almost as if she is merely clay in his hands. Read More→
Mina Loy’s Feminist Manifesto is considered among her most notable works, though it wasn’t published until well after her death. In this 1914 piece, Loy vehemently asserted women’s need to fight for their selfhood rather than subsuming their personalities and desires to those of the patriarchy.
Mina Loy (1882 – 1966), the English-born modernist poet, playwright, and artist was was lauded by her peers for her dense analyses of the female experience in early twentieth-century Western society. The undercurrent of the Manifesto hints at Loy’s struggles with modernism — the artistic philosophy of her day — and its central aesthetic of impersonality.
Feminist Manifesto was finally published in 1982, in The Last Lunar Baedeker, a posthumous collection of her various works, including essays and poetry. Read More→
Coup De Grâce by Marguerite Yourcenar is this noted French author’s 1939 novella, her second such work following Alexis (1929). In a 1988 interview in Paris Review, Yourcenar reveals that the novella’s lead female, Sophie, is very close to herself at twenty.
The brief but emotionally devastating story is of the love triangle between three young people affected by the civil war between the White Russians and the Bolsheviks: Erick and Conrad, best friends from childhood; and Sophie, who is burdened with an unrequited love for Conrad. Read More→
Jasmin Darznik, author of The Bohemians, a novel of Dorothea Lange’s early career (Ballantine Books, 2021), presents 10 fascinating facts about this trailblazing American documentary photographer of the early 20th century:
Though she is most known for her iconic Depression-era photograph “Migrant Mother,” Dorothea Lange’s photographs put a face to nearly every major historical event of the twentieth century, including World War II and the Japanese American internment camps.
Her photographs are infused with a deep and abiding dedication to documenting the lives of the have-nots in our country—those banished to the fringes by poverty, hardship, forced migration, and discrimination. She also dedicated herself to documenting environmental degradation, as in her series Death of a Valley. Read More→
Memoirs of Hadrian, a novel by Marguerite Yourcenar, the Belgian-born French writer, was first published in France in 1951. Originally written in French, it was published in English in 1954. It was an ambitious project many year in the making; Yourcenar first had the idea for it in the 1920s, then worked on it, on and off, in the 1930s.
Many years in gestation, it was a book that, with the benefit of hindsight, she didn’t think she could have written when she was younger. “There are books,” she said later, “which one should not attempt before having passed the age of forty.”
Considered this author’s masterwork, and the book she’s best remembered for, it was from the start a critical success. The novel, told from a first person person by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, begins with a letter to his adoptive grandson, who became Marcus Aurelius and his successor. Read More→
This analysis of Summer by Edith Wharton, a 1917 novella of the coming of age of Charity Royall, a small-town girl, is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century Woman’s Novel by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.
The slim novel was one of Wharton’s personal favorites. She called it the “hot Ethan,” referring to her 1911 novella, Ethan Frome. It’s unclear if she was speaking of the book’s setting in the summer season, Charity’s sexual awakening, or both.
Unusually for Edith Wharton (1862–1937), best known for her novels of patrician Gilded-Age New York like The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence, this novella is set in a tiny New England town close to ‘the Mountain,’ from which Charity Royall has been brought down as a baby by lawyer Royall, as he is universally known, and his wife, who is dead before the story begins. Read More→
Among the works Rachel Field (1894 – 1942) created for children, the most celebrated and enduring is Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, published in 1929. Written in the voice of a 100-year-old doll telling her life story, it gave Field the distinction of being the first woman to win a Newberry Medal (1930). It also received the acclaimed Lewis Carroll Shelf Award.
Hitty enjoyed a long life in print. The 1959 MacMillan Company edition, retaining the original illustrations by Dorothy P. Lathrop, describes the book as follows: Read More→