The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë by Daphne du Maurier

The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte by Daphne du Maurier

The three Brontë sisters — Charlotte, Emily, and Anne — cherished literary ambitions from an early age, and despite lives cut short by illness, earned a prominent place in the English literary canon. The same can’t be said for their brother, Branwell Brontë (1817 – 1848), whose dissipated life ended at age thirty-one, with little to show for his early talent other than thwarted ambition.

The children of Maria Branwell Brontë and Reverend Patrick Brontë, the Brontë siblings grew up in Haworth, England, located in Yorkshire. Maria Branwell Brontë died while the children were still very young, and the two oldest sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, died of illness before reaching adolescence. Read More→

Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson, 1951 — an Analysis

Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson

This analysis of Hangsaman, Shirley Jackson’s chilling and thought-provoking 1951 novel, is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century Woman’s Novel by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.

In a 1956 book called Sex Variant Women in Literature,  the academic critic, Jeanette H. Foster referred to Hangsaman as “an eerie novel about lesbians.’ This is a bizarre reading of the novel and Shirley Jackson was incensed. Her biographer, Judy Oppenheimer, quoted her as saying:

“I happen to know what Hangsaman is about. I wrote it. And dammit it is about what I say it is about and not some dirty old lady at Oxford. Because (let me whisper) I don’t really know anything about stuff like that. And I don’t want to know… I am writing about ambivalence but it is an ambivalence of the spirit or the mind, not the sex. My poor devils have enough to contend with without being sex deviates along with being moral and romantic deviates.” Read More→

9 Classic Pakistani Women Novelists And Poets to Discover

Fahmida Riaz, Pakistani author and poet

Discover some of the best-known classic women Pakistani  novelists and poets who challenged society’s norms and made invaluable contributions to literature.

Many classic Pakistani women authors were born before the partition and lived through the horrors of migration. They had to adjust to a new life in the new country, and these extraordinary life experiences seep into their writings.  (Pictured here, Fahmida Riaz.)

With their fiery words, they bent social norms and challenged patriarchy and debauchery long before the concept of feminism or human rights became a part of living room discussions. Read More→

Solitude vs Self-Isolation: Women Authors and the Sacred Inner Space

Daphne du Maurier at her desk

Most artists and writers keep their inner space sacred and inviolate. It’s the core from where their creativity springs. Some keep their inner world more private than others. 

While plenty of male writers have suffered from (or have preferred) isolation, this musing will focus on well known female writers. Confinement periods can be an advantage for women writers, as their extra-curricular activities may  slow down.

Seeking solitude doesn’t make a writer antisocial. Perhaps periods of quarantines made it easier for writers to carve out specific periods of time where they can work in blissful solitude. A brief look at women authors of the past shows that self-imposed sequestration isn’t such a crazy thing to do, after all. Read More→

6 Classic Early- to Mid-20th Century Lesbian Novels

Spring Fire by Vin Packer

Though the classic lesbian novels surveyed here – published from the early through mid-twentieth century – seemed truly groundbreaking in their time, they certainly weren’t the first of this genre of literature. From the poetry of Sappho to the secret diaries of Anne Lister to queer re-evaluations of many classic women authors, the books listed here had plenty of forerunners.

The difference? Though some were more forthright than others, there was less of the thinly veiled allusions, and more overt same-sex love and romance. Though by no means the only fine examples of the genre, the six novels presented here were hugely impactful. Read More→

Odd Girl Out by Ann Bannon (Ann Weldy), 1957

Odd girl out by Anne Bannon

Odd Girl Out by Ann Bannon (the pseudonym of Ann Weldy), was one of several hugely influential lesbian pulp novels of the 1950s. This appreciation and analysis is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century Woman’s Novel by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.

In the introduction to her anthology Lesbian Pulp Fiction, the author Katherine V. Forrest remembers how a book she found in a bookshop in Detroit in 1957 changed not only her writing but her life: Read More→

Margaret C. Anderson, Founder of The Little Review

margaret-c-anderson, founder of the little review

Margaret C. Anderson (November 24, 1886 – October 18, 1973) was a daring, headstrong writer, editor, and founder of the modernist literary magazine, The Little Review. This modernist journal, published from 1914 to 1929, was dedicated to the best writing and art of the early twentieth century. 

Margaret was later known as one of “The Women of the Rope,” a group of writers and artists who studied with the famous Russian mystic Gurdjieff, part of a group seeking transformation and possible enlightenment.

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Spring Fire by Vin Packer (Marijane Meaker), a Lesbian Pulp Classic

Spring Fire first edition cover

1952 was something of an annus mirabilis for the lesbian coming of age novel, seeing the paperback republication of Diana, the original publication of both Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt and Spring Fire by Vin Packer, a pseudonym used by Marijane Meaker. This analysis and synopsis is excerpted from Girls in Bloom by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.

Meaker wrote about Highsmith in her late memoir Highsmith of 2003; they were on and off lovers in a stormy relationship for many years; Highsmith was much older and more established when Meaker finally plucked up courage to walk up to her in L’s bar.

“Pat had become my idol. Although we were both reviewed in Anthony Boucher’s mystery column in the New York Times, she was published in hardcover by Harper Brothers. As Vin Packer, I was one of Gold Medal Books’ mystery/suspense paperback ‘tough guys,’ and, as Ann Aldrich, a softcover reporter on lesbian life.” Read More→