ZELDA: THE MADWOMAN IN THE FLAPPER DRESS My November Column at Bookslut

"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. "In patriarchal Western culture," …

THE (IMAGINED) WOMAN READER AND MALE ANXIETY: My September Column at Bookslut

Recently, in The New York Review of Books, Elaine Blair wrote, "Our American male novelists, I suspect, are worried about being unloved as writers -- specifically by the female reader. This is the larger humiliation looming behind the many smaller fictional humiliations of their heroes, and we can see it in the way the characters' …

THE SULTANA OF SUBVERSION: THREE HARD-BOILED NOVELS BY DOROTHY B. HUGHES: My July Column at Bookslut

The serial killer Dix Steele in Dorothy B. Hughes's 1947 noir classic In a Lonely Place professes to his friend Brub Nicolai, an LAPD detective assigned to the "strangler" case, to be writing a detective novel. Brub responds: "Who you stealing from, Chandler or Hammett or Gardner?" Hughes herself stole brilliantly from her fellow pulp …

BLOOD ON THE PAPER: THE BARBED LEGACY OF LILLIAN HELLMAN–My June Column at Bookslut

Filmmaker Elia Kazan, venting his fury against Lillian Hellman's memoir Scoundrel Time in which she skewers him and other liberal artists and intellectuals for their lily-livered performances during the McCarthy Era, raged against "this bitch with balls" who "went after what she wanted the way a man does." What Kazan once considered a vitriolic attack …

“Arm Yourself Against My Dawn”: Revisiting Jean Strouse’s groundbreaking biography of Alice James

In a colorful, chatty, and ironically self-aggrandizing letter to her Aunt Kate, Alice James concludes with a quip: "Forgive me all this egotism but I have to be my own Boswell." Alice James had to wait nearly a century, but she eventually found her Boswell in Jean Strouse. First published in 1980, Strouse's dazzling, bold, …