The Grand Adventure of Vera Caspary
Caspary’s psycho-thriller Laura (1942, republished in 2005 by Feminist Press) is a pitch-perfect detective yarn that manipulates the tropes of the genre to explore the intersection of class, crime, and sexual politics. Her plot twists are ingenious, her characters expertly drawn, and her prose style as refined and faceted as the best of Raymond Chandler.
Understanding the Other: Elif Shafak’s Honor
Spanning several generations, time frames, cultures, and geographies, the narrative unfolds from the viewpoints of multiple characters and seeks to discover the myriad forces and influences that lead İskender to commit such a heinous crime.
Émilie du Châtelet: The Lady Who Was A Great Man
In zestful prose, itself dripping with Voltarian wit, Mitford spins an account of the lovers’ incessant shenanigans, both highbrow and bawdy, and in so doing paints a flamboyant, down-and-dirty tableau of the French Enlightenment.
Zelda: The Madwoman in the Flapper Dress
“Is a pen a metaphorical penis?” Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar asked in their seminal study of women writers and the literary imagination The Madwoman in the Attic (1979, reissued 2011). Their answer was a resounding, if complex, yes, resulting in our most robust and far-reaching feminist literary theory to date.
Reinventing Love or, Slavery Inc.: The Untold Story of International Sex Trafficking
Worldwide, one of the first things enslaved girls are taught, Cacho reveals in Slavery Inc., her devastating exposé of the rapidly expanding global market for sex slaves, is to call their clients “my love,” “my life,” “darling,” “big daddy,” or “my king.”
The (Imagined) Woman Reader and Male Anxiety
Male anxiety about the woman reader is as old as reading itself. In Belinda Jack’s new book The Woman Reader, she meticulously explores the manifestation of this anxiousness historically.
Eluding Magnificent Monuments: The Stylish Lives of Esther Murphy, Mercedes de Acosta, and Madge Garland
In trying to come to terms with what she perceived as her friend Esther Murphy’s colossal failure of a life, the novelist Dawn Powell wrote to Esther’s brother Gerald, “Some people don’t want to be the action — they really want to be spectator.” In All We Know: Three Lives, Lisa Cohen’s mind-stretching book about three early 20th-century women who dwelled on the margins of celebrity, Powell’s division becomes specious.
The Sultana of Subversion: Three Hard-Boiled Novels by Dorothy B. Hughes
Hughes herself stole brilliantly from her fellow pulp writers, added her inimitable twist, and became the “Queen of Noir,” the “Mistress of Dark Suspense.” She, in turn, was stolen from by the likes of Jim Thomson, Patricia Highsmith, Ruth Rendell, and Sara Paretsky.
Blood on the Paper: The Barbed Legacy of Lillian Hellman
Historian Alice Kessler-Harris’s intriguing new biography A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman offers a reassessment of Hellman through the lens of “gender as an ideological force.” Hellman’s life is not examined chronologically but by theme, and Kessler-Harris’s spiral structure produces a richly layered approach, despite suffering from repetition.
“Arm Yourself Against My Dawn”: Revisiting Jean Strouse’s groundbreaking biography of Alice James
First published in 1980, Strouse’s dazzling, bold, and formidable Alice James: A Biography has recently been reissued as part of the New York Review of Books Classics series and justly so. Strouse’s study, composed in radiant prose, is easily a classic of biography, deftly and elegantly incorporating social history, family history, the history of the science of psychology, and literary criticism.