Esther Murphy was a brilliant New York intellectual who dazzled friends and strangers with an unstoppable flow of conversation. But she never finished the books she was contracted to write—a painful failure and yet a kind of achievement.
The quintessential fan, Mercedes de Acosta had intimate friendships with the legendary actresses and dancers of the twentieth century. Her ephemeral legacy lies in the thousands of objects she collected to preserve the memory of those performers and to honor the feelings they inspired.
An icon of haute couture and a fashion editor of British Vogue, Madge Garland held bracing views on dress that drew on her feminism, her ideas about modernity, and her love of women. Existing both vividly and invisibly at the center of cultural life, she—like Murphy and de Acosta—is now almost completely forgotten.
In All We Know, Lisa Cohen describes these women’s glamorous choices, complicated failures, and controversial personal lives with lyricism and empathy. At once a series of intimate portraits and a startling investigation into style, celebrity, sexuality, and the genre of biography itself, All We Know explores a hidden history of modernism and pays tribute to three compelling lives.
More about All We Know: Three Lives by Lisa Cohen
The Suppressed Memoirs of Mabel Dodge Luhan: Sex, Syphilis, and Psychoanalysis in the Making of Modern American Culture Edited by Lois Palken Rudnick. Univ. of New Mexico, ISBN 978-0-8263-5119-7
Reviewed in Publisher’s Weekly, July 27, 2012: “In this illuminating volume, comprising previously unpublished portions of Mabel Dodge Luhan’s memoirs, Rudnick analyzes the influential art patron’s confessions and places them in an enlivening historical context. Writing in the early part of the 20th century, the openly bisexual Luhan describes a life of pleasure characterized by numerous sexual partners (married men among them), yet confounded by consequent venereal diseases and the feeling of being “the prisoner of circumstances over which [she] had no control.” Rudnick explains how the rampant spread of syphilis through the population affected not only Luhan, but many of her contemporaries, who struggled to reconcile Victorian notions of VDs (‘the sins of the fathers’) with a modernist worldview less bound to religious dogma, but still subject to the actualities of disease that accompanied the nascent sexual liberation, courtesy in part of Freud, of the early 1900s. In an attempt to overcome the burden of syphilis and the mixed-blessing of sexual freedom, Luhan became heavily involved in psychoanalytic treatment with some of America’s most renowned practitioners, which experience she dutifully recounts in detail. Populated by such artistic, cultural, and literary luminaries as Picasso, O’Keeffe, and Gertrude Stein, Luhan’s diaries are thoroughly engaging in their own right. But combined with Rudnick’s enlightening analysis, they become an indispensable looking glass into life during a tumultuous transitional period.”
“Navigating NYC in Children’s Books: A Whistle-Stop Tour”
A lecture by Pádraic Whyte, School of English, Trinity College Dublin
Thursday, November 8, 2012
5:15 PM – 6:15 PM
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
121 Wall St., New Haven, CT 06511
(Location is wheelchair accessible)
Free and Open to the Public
From Eloise by Kay Thompson. Illustration by Hilary Knight
Read Charles Isherwood’s review in the New York Times: A Life Captured With Luster Left Intact
About the book, from HarperCollins:
Art is confession; art is the secret told. . . . But art is not only the desire to tell one’s secret; it is the desire to tell it and hide it at the same time. And the secret is nothing more than the whole drama of the inner life.
Thornton Wilder: A Life, the first biography of the playwright and novelist since 1983, is also the first to be based on thousands of pages of letters, journals, manuscripts, and other documentary evidence of Wilder’s life, work, and times. For more than a decade, biographer Penelope Niven has worked with unprecedented access to Wilder’s papers, including his family’s private journals and records, searching for the secrets that illuminate Wilder’s public life and work, as well as the hidden inner self sometimes concealed and sometimes revealed in his art and in his papers.
Thornton Wilder was a multifaceted man: a teacher, novelist, playwright, lecturer, actor, musician, soldier, man of letters, outspoken citizen, and international public figure. He was also an enigmatic, intensely private man. He belonged to a close-knit, complicated family—two brilliant parents, four gifted siblings, and the specter of his twin brother lost at birth. His biography is also a compelling family saga, starring Thornton Wilder, with strong supporting roles played by his father, mother, brother, and sisters.
He was a gypsy, wandering the world, writing, he said, for and about everybody—a fact international audiences still embrace. The Bridge of San Luis Rey, The Eighth Day, and his other novels are still read in the United States and abroad. His plays, especially the iconic Our Town and the revolutionary Skin of Our Teeth, are still performed on stages around the globe.
Yet despite the international fame and visibility of Wilder the writer, far too little has been known or understood about Wilder the man—until now. Comprehensively researched and richly detailed, Thornton Wilder: A Life brings the private man center stage and sheds new light on his published and unpublished work.
More about Thornton Wilder: A Life: http://www.thorntonwilder.com/