About the last book I'd ever pick up on my own (I am about as far from interested in sports as one can possibly be), but Ware's successful integrationAbout the last book I'd ever pick up on my own (I am about as far from interested in sports as one can possibly be), but Ware's successful integration of a widespan of provocative topics--feminism, Title IX, the politics of athletics, BJ King, public outing, &co--proved a quite interesting and educational (but not boring) read. I can't say I came away from the book *liking* King really at all, but I don't require that from a biographical portrait. She certainly offers a useful icon/figurehead for the intersections of these diverse issues, even if she seems self-serving and, well, profoundly fake.
It's an accessible book that wears its research well. In the interest of full disclosure, Susan Ware was teaching a grad course I was in at the time of reading, but this is no sycophantic review. I think particularly if you're interested in feminist history, sports, tennis, or King this will be a wonderfully useful book to have at hand....more
I've been a bit obsessed with Woolf for a coupla years now; what I'd somehow avoided until now was delving into the mountain of Woolf biographies. OnI've been a bit obsessed with Woolf for a coupla years now; what I'd somehow avoided until now was delving into the mountain of Woolf biographies. On the recommendation of a fellow goodreads member, I hurriedly grabbed this as part of my Xmas-presents-to-me-from-me and fortunately had an excuse to 'pleasure read' the book as part of a research project on Woolf I'm currently finishing up.
Incredibly engaging, fresh, and beautifully researched and historicized, Light's 'biography' (of sorts) examines shifting cultural attitudes and practices concerning domestic servitude in England--obviously, this is particular to Woolf's life and to the lives of the Bloomsbury circle. However, by expanding her focus outwards to the lives of a number of the domestics and their histories and the class politics of the Victorian era through the Second World War, Light makes this a compelling read for those who might be less interested in Woolf's life and more interested in that specific historical context. At times, this was difficult to reconcile myself with, because Light certainly does not excuse Woolf's class snobbery or her fraught relationship with her servants--nor does she let the rest of the Bloomsbury crew off the hook--and in fact, this biography has led me to a paper wherein I'll be--gasp--critiquing Woolf's community vision in 'Between the Acts.' But the balanced way in which Light creates this portrait is one of the achievements of the biography. Even as we hear Woolf bitching to Vanessa Bell about her domestic 'dolts,' we are also given to know that Woolf dearly loved old Sophie (a hanger-on from her Victorian childhood), and that she visited Nellie Boxall in the hospital and cuddled up against her, even though by all accounts, her relationship with Nellie was one of love and hate equally.
Fair, well-written, and often like reading a fabulous novel, this one should be read by anyone interested in Woolf, and particularly those interested in Woolf's class politics. It was difficult to put-down; I read it on the subway; I read it in bed and in coffeeshops; I read it, realizing all the while that if I'd been born in the same economic circumstances in Woolf's time, I would have been of the sort she considered morally and intellectually inferior. Nevertheless, one closes the book with a sense of an incredibly complex woman who just so happened to keep equally complex servants--and indeed, it is the servants that shine most brightly in this biography. Nellie, Lottie, Sophie, and Mabel stick in the brain as I write this with a wonderful brightness, a liveliness. Maybe a quote from Mrs. Dalloway should seem inappropriate at this juncture, but I think not unlike Clarissa, these fascinating women somehow come through the biography intact, if probably distorted by representation: "For there she was." ...more
Davison's memoir centers on his experiences in the frequently kooky, wildly fruitful, and endlessly fascinating Boston poetry scene of the 1950s and 6Davison's memoir centers on his experiences in the frequently kooky, wildly fruitful, and endlessly fascinating Boston poetry scene of the 1950s and 60s. With cameos from Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, the Merwins, Robert Lowell, Maxine Kumin, and Adrienne Rich (among many, many others), this was a stunning glimpse into an intellectual and creative community that (I would argue) is potentially unrivaled in literary history.
Though I didn't give the book five stars (the organization could have been better-handled, and it felt as if the memoir just cut off, mid-thought), it satisfied several hopes I had going into the reading of it: 1) I became violently jealous of Davison and everyone involved, for having lived in a time when the role of the poet was really, truly significant to a community's culture and livelihood, 2) I felt as if, rather than offered a sterile grocery list of facts about these poets, I was in on the intimate (but tender) gossip of the wider circle, and 3) I was inspired to write, and began thinking of ways in which I might better throw myself into my life as, yes, a writer. These poets did nothing half-heartedly; their entire beings were absolutely thrown into the wreckage of their work, and I was just enthralled by it. I shouldn't exoticize madness, as is often the tendency with icons like Sexton and Plath and Lowell, but nonetheless, I can't help but find appealing the awe-inspiring and sometimes frightening passion with which all of these writers were working. It was thrilling. But as I said, and perhaps this is merely a failing of the memoir form, there were moments where I just needed more--more clarity, more elaboration, more closure. That was me reading as a consumer of novels and biographies, though, so perhaps I shouldn't blame Davison. Any case, this comes highly recommended, especially if you're tired of all the medicinal work on these wacky writers--this is a smart, and balanced, game of he-said-she-said, and it's a truly enjoyable read....more