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Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,181 Ratings  ·  147 Reviews
In her exuberant new work, Marion Meade presents a portrait of four extraordinary writers-Dorothy Parker, Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna St.Vincent Millay, and Edna Ferber- whose loves, lives, and literary endeavors embodied the spirit of the 1920s.

These literary heroines did what they wanted and said what they thought, living wholly in the moment. They kicked open the door for t
Paperback, 356 pages
Published June 6th 2005 by Harcourt (first published 2004)
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Mar 31, 2009 rated it did not like it
Edna St. Vincent Millay, Zelda Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber. These names conjure a mystique, almost a mythology: bad girls, notorious woman of the Roaring Twenties.

What fresh hells (with apologies to Dorothy Parker) were behind these exemplars of the energy, freedom, and creativity of those years? Marion Meade chronicles the lives of these women, from the height of their fame through the self-destruction or disappointment of their lives.

Since many of the high points and crashes have a
May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
A history of four intriguing women, following them from 1920 to 1930 - from a sparkling start to a somewhat less sparkling end (though not everything went awry in the end - just for some...). The author has chosen to present everything chronologically which means the women's stories come together and part and then meet again, just like they did in real life. They all moved in the same circles, knew the same people (which at times can be slightly confusing) and in many cases struggled with the sa ...more
Apr 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, re-read, 2017-reads
I first read this about 12 years ago and when I sampled a bit of the audio edition I decided to repeat the experience - by having someone read it to me. It's a lively account and a lot of fun, although the lives of Dorothy Parker, Zelda F., Edna St. Vincent Millay ("Vincent"), and Edna Ferber contained a lot of health crises, mental illness, and of course, alcoholism. Marion Meade loves these people and treats their stories with affection (she wrote a biography of Parker). I don't know why so ma ...more
Dec 06, 2007 rated it liked it
As hard as it was to pull myself away from the television this weekend (six soccer matches! eight episodes of Gilmore Girls!), I did also read a book. A non-fiction book, even. This book, Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin, which is a mixed autobiography of four American women writers from the 1920s, Dorothy Parker, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edna Ferber, and Zelda Fitzgerald.

You'd think that with subject matter like that, you couldn't lose. Unfortunately, you'd be wrong. This book is just not very good.
Dec 05, 2007 rated it it was ok
what stories about dorothy parker, zeda fitzgerald and edna st. vincent millay aren't interesting? not many. she writes about one more edna too but i forget who. that's why this book wasn't very good. it was really uneven - she'll be writing about dorothy parker and then skip over to some guy who was friends with dorothy and then the name of all his friends, and then to zelda fitzgerald with no smooth connection or segue at all.
in retrospect, i think it would be more satisfying to read biograph
Jan C
So, this book follows Dorothy Parker, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald and Edna Ferber through the twenties. They were free spirits and fit the "Roaring Twenties". Besides being heavy drinking years they were also fairly prolific years for the ladies involved.

This is my second Marion Meade book. I previously read her Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase: A Biography. Both books left me a little dissatisfied. Not sure if I was looking for something else or what. Maybe it is her writing
Rebecca Makkai
Oct 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I probably shouldn't give stars when I'm only halfway through a book, but I can't imagine I'll change my mind by the end of this one. I picked up the audio book for the car (really just as background research for my second novel), and I'm so hooked I'm making excuses to run errands just to listen to it. I do love the voice of the reader -- she sounds like an older, sophisticated woman, leaning close to fill you in on gossip she just learned -- and I'm reminded again of how much a reader can make ...more
Apr 28, 2008 rated it did not like it
I'll keep reading it until I just simply cannot bear another word, but this is a lazily written and researched book that relies on legend, gossip and old research. These women don't deserve it. This could have been a lot more but is a total piece of hackwork. This author is known as an expert on this period, so she can get away with it. I am sure she got a nice paycheck, but all the ended up doing was a disservice to the women who have provided her with a lifestyle as an academic writer. Boo his ...more
Feb 17, 2008 rated it liked it
This book was a little like a train wreck. As much as I felt I should politely turn away, I couldn't stop myself from reading it. Honestly, I didn't like the writing; I thought it was too self-conscious and overdone. And I wasn't crazy about the books chronological organization by year, it seemed a little disjointed and the portraits of the four women were a little monochromatic. Despite all that, there is definitely some good gossip and its a bit like reading a scandal magazine or a tabloid tel ...more
Feb 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
Although this focuses on some of my favorite writers of that era, I wasn't a fan of the author's style. It gives a chronological coverage of what they were up to in the 20s, but in the course of almost 300 pages, you never really get a solid grasp of their personalities or any depth of who they are. (I was also annoyed by the overuse of nicknames.)
Inez Parra
Jan 08, 2008 rated it it was ok
So very dry! Sucks all the fun out of the Jazz Age. The writers I imagined having spunk and sass in their step were actually just a bunch of self obsessed, pretentious old hags concerned with status and gossip. Oh well, I'll always have Clara Bow.
Martin Turnbull
Mar 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
I LOVED this book about the lives of 4 female American writers throughout the 1920s (mainly in New York) - Dorothy Parker, Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna Ferber, and Edna St. Vincent Mallay. I gobbled it up and regretted when it came to an end. I wanted it to keep on going.
Mar 06, 2007 rated it liked it
Fun but not super well-written account of my favorite literary period.
Mar 28, 2008 rated it did not like it
A disappointingly dry and dull account of the lives of the Fitzgeralds, Dorothy Parker, et. al. Perhaps this author should have let her writing run a little wild. . . .
mr. kate
Oct 04, 2007 rated it did not like it
I actually never finished this book because I couldn't deal with the way dorothy parker was referred to as "dottie"...
Jul 19, 2010 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book, but found it disjointed and hard to follow. There was a certain charm and interest to the details, but even though I was nearly done I just couldn't finish it.
Deborah Necessary
I enjoyed this book, but it's like I always say, there is a fine line between genius and madness. All these authors led somewhat tragic lives.
Annie Noblin
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Loved this one! I liked getting inside the heads of these women. I thought it was well done and just an overall fun read.
I totally loved this book. I was captivated by the often "naughty" and catty lives of some of my favorite authors. Truly a fun and gossipy-like read!
Oct 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I became fascinated with the twenties when I happen to stumble on two different young adult series set in the 1920s. I loved those books and like with a lot of my interests, I immediately sought out books and other things that took place in the 1920s.

This book was one of the books I bought last year along with Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern. I read Flapper at the end of last year and was slightly disappointed in it.

I was in for a surprise
Jun 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've always been interested in the writers of this era and it was particularly fascinating to read a book that focuses on the female authors rather than the male. Having said that, as a fan of F Scott Fitzgerald, the tidbits on him were eye-opening! He sounded like a nightmare! In all, one is left with the impression that to be a really great writer one has to have something of a narcissistic personality disorder and/or at least the hint of a mental illness of some kind. Or perhaps that was just ...more
Caitlin Constantine
Feb 24, 2009 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed the parts of this book that focused on Zelda Fitzgerald (about whom I've already read two biographies anyway), Edna St. Vincent Millay and Dorothy Parker. However, I found the parts on Edna Ferber lacking in depth. Why was she included? Was it to provide some sort of counterweight to all of the insanity and misery and fucked-up-ness that seemed to trail after the other three women? Was it to show a successful writer from that time period who didn't self-destruct in a fireball of ...more
Apr 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book covers a ten-year period(1920-1930). The author discusses four women writers (Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber, and Zelda Fitzgerald--yes, she wrote too). When I first learned of the book, I assumed it would be divided into four parts, one for each of the women. However, the book is divided into ten chapters, each covering one year of the roaring twenties. Along the way, we are introduced to the many friends, lovers, and other assorted crazies that these women hung ...more
Jan 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Told through the tangled lives of four free-spirited but very different women in the same forward thinking, hard drinking New York literary circle, Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin is a brisk social history of 1920’s. There’s the surprisingly fragile Dorothy Parker, a scathingly clever but not especially insightful wit, and the sparkling but ultimately tragic Zelda Fitzgerald, whose talent for art and life is overshadowed by her more famous husband and her own eventual madness. Rounding out the group ...more
Mar 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, nerd
The author arranged the information by year, rather than by topic, and I think that detracts from the book's effectiveness. It's a weird style choice that an editor should have talked her out of.

That being said, I liked learning more about these women. I suppose this book serves as a sort of intro to the writers, kind of like an appetizer that makes me want a main course? Whatever, I'm bad at figurative language. What I mean to say is this: now I want to read proper biographies and/or the works
Overall, a quick, interesting read that added to my knowledge of the four women Meade highlights - Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, Zelda Fitzgerald, & Edna Ferber - & that makes me want to read more by and about them. The book is a little uneven & despite its title, succeeds in making it sound as though these women led lives of less than quiet desperation. If you think you're going to read about a group of young, creative women having fun, breaking barriers and lighting up t ...more
Mar 31, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: readers who are interested in the 1920s, women writers, poets, the New Yorker, and publishing
I went back and forth on my feelings about this book, frankly. The information about the four women authors (Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna Ferber, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Dorothy Parker), was interesting indeed, but the choppy pace of the book made it difficult to keep things straight. The book is organized by year through the decade of the 1920s and finishes with the year 1930, and follows the lives of these four authors through the times. I learned a lot I didn't know about the writers' private ...more
Mar 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
This book gives the reader an inside look at a 10-year period of the lives of Dorothy Parker, Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna Ferber, and Edna St. Vincent Millay -- and of the people in their family and social circles. It showcases both their genius and their very human weaknesses.

The narrative takes place during prohibition, but prohibition doesn't have a prayer of reducing their alcohol consumption. It is part juicy gossip (though very well researched) and part psycho-social observation.

I enjoyed it
Michael Mayer
Oct 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The definitive guide to the Jazz Age's top female writers and their lives, loves and travels: Dorothy Parker (my absolute favorite), Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna Ferber and Edna St. Vincent Millay.
Superb history of these Jazz Age heroines and a must for students of the literary and art scene of the '20's, for an inside look at F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Paris, and the Riviera with the Murphy's fabulous writers oasis near Cap D'Antibes. An inside look at life in the Jazz Age and as a huge fan of s
Nancy Cook-senn
May 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Journey along with the writers, editors, wits, wastrels and others in the turbulent decade that gave us such a cultural legacy. Touching on some of the "running wild" and dishing a great deal of personality conflict, Meade also shows their worries, frustrations, trials and failures in navigating the new world.
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Marion Meade is an American biographer and novelist, whose subjects stretch from 12th century French royalty to 20th century stand-up comedians. She is best known for her portraits of literary figures and iconic filmmakers.

Her new book, Lonelyhearts: The Screwball World of Nathanael West and Eileen McKenney, is a joint biography of a husband and wife whose lives provide a vivid picture of the art
More about Marion Meade