Sunday, August 03, 2008

Summer Reading List (Part Two - Difficult women)

Is anyone even reading my humble blog offerings anymore or are you all sunning yourself in foreign climes?

Anyways, on Friday I delivered my first grown-up book, except today I decided there were at least two chapters that needed to be completely rewritten. But mostly it's done and as Dusty once sang, I just don't know what to do with myself. Tomorrow I will probably start my next teen book as I don't believe in taking writing breaks; it's a heady combination of an over-developed work ethic, credit crunch hysteria and Jewish guilt. Be very glad you're not me!

So, I finally have time to post the second part of my reading recs. There will be other parts to come, but this time I wanted to focus on my favourite female writers. In fact, with a few notable exceptions, all my favourite writers are women. People can be quite sniffy about writing for women and the themes women writers explore, but I want to read about relationships, shopping, food, sex, friendships, clothes and life and death and everything in between. I don't like reading about people blowing each other up, anything too sci-fi-ish or fantasy and crime. But that's just a personal preference and really? The only difference between female writing and male writing is that they're written by different sexes. Neither one is less or more than the other, but the writers I mostly come back to are stubborn, difficult women who write about other stubborn, difficult women, because I am one. So, here we go:

1. The Collected Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker was a noted wit in the 1920's, who was thwarted in love, drank too much and hung out with the likes of F Scott Fitzgerald. She never wrote a full-length novel, but all her short stories, poems and book reviews are gathered in this compendium. You probably already know of her as she wrote the famous epiphet, "Men never makes passes/At girls in glasses," but she's so much more than that. Her stories are always funny, but have this black edge running through them and actually the New York of her 1920's in very similar to the New York of Gossip Girl in that underneath all the style and shallowness, there's something sad and unhappy lurking underneath. God, Blair Waldorf is the spiritual great-grand-daughter of Dottie P!

2. The Pursuit Of Love and Love In A Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford

I'm absolutely obsessed with the Mitford Sisters, six debutantes who shocked England with their antics. Though I have no time for Unity Mitford, who was in love with Hitler, or Diana Mitford, who married Oswald Moseley leader of the British fascists. But I love Jessica Mitford who eloped with her Communist cousin when she was 17 and I adore Nancy who wrote two of my favourite novels, The Pursuit Of Love and Love In A Cold Climate. These are not sappy romances, but mannered, elegant stories about love and the upper classes and are full of wit and acid observations but, as usual, have this core of hopeful sadness running through them.

3. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

A shy, timid slip of a girl meets a much older, rich man and marries him, as you do. He takes her back to his big, creepy house, Manderlay, which is managed by his equally creepy housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, and the second Mrs De Winter (we never discover her first name!) starts to piece together how his first wife, Rebecca died. You should also check out the film, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, which is just as spooky and atmospheric as this book.

4. Edie: An American Biography by Jean Stein

When I was 17, I was besotted with Edie Sedgwick, a superstar created by pop artist, Andy Warhol. Edie came from a really wealthy, completely bonkers East Coast family, did a spell in a psychiatric hospital and came to New York. She cut and died her hair silver to match Andy Warhol's, starred in his pretentious movies, had an affair with Bob Dylan (his album Blonde On Blonde is rumoured to be about Edie)and did copious amounts of drugs. She was a doomed, tragic little girl lost and I thought she was wonderful! This biography tells the story of Edie's life through the anecdotes and
memories of the people who knew her. And let's not mention the film, Factory Girl, OK?

There may be more. I'm sure there's more, but my brain currently feels like blancmange (it's been a rather erm, alcoholic weekend!) so I'm going to post and be damned and maybe come back to this in a day or so.

And don't forget to vote for me in the Queen Of Teen thingy.

Live on

S x

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