At TIME, I’m writing an ongoing series on unsung women of history, co-created with the brilliant Erin Blakemore.
Subjects so far have included Harlem Renaissance prodigy Dorothy West, J.P. Morgan’s (secretly African American) library director Belle da Costa Greene; Wall Street ball-buster Muriel Siebert; and of course, Marjorie Hillis.
Other recent work:
Her dream life was simple, heartbreakingly so: “We decided we would get married and make books and publish them.” How could she have known that the hardest part of that dream was the “we”?
“A Publishing House of Her Own.” New Republic
Olivia Laing’s unusual book — part memoir, part biography, part cultural criticism — is less a predictable rom-com than a wonderfully melancholy meditation on modern art, urban space and the complexity of being alone.
“Not Your Average Tale of a Single Woman in the City.” Washington Post.
The tortured questions of what exactly the humanities are for, what their study can do or give or create, and therefore how they can be defended, are hardly new—John Williams’ elegant, anguished novel Stoner makes that clear.
“The Great Academic Novel.” In These Times.
If the biographer won’t speculate exactly how it felt to have sex with F. Scott Fitzgerald, fiction writers are happy to step in and describe it. In the past few years, a flood of what amounts to biographical fan fiction has swept conventional literary biography out of the way.
“Whose Life?” Slate
She hated milquetoast pastels and muddy neutrals: they were the chromatic equivalent of what she called the “Will to Be Dreary,” a “morose little imp” that tells us not to spend time or money on things we know would be frivolous and fun.
“Dorothy Draper’s Riotously Colorful World.” Curbed (selected as one of the 12 best features of 2015.)
No single woman who visited New York in 1939 was really there just for the museums. She was there for the Stork Club and the Mirador, the Cotton Club and the Savoy. She had money to spend, and yet an absurd combination of convention, prejudice, faux concern, and fear kept her from where she most wanted to be.
“Gentlemen for Rent.” The New Yorker online.
The conviction that white American society was in decline was common in the 1930s, a basic tenet of the overlapping work of fascists and eugenicists. Self-help writers like Brande accordingly urged their readers to pursue success in order to separate themselves from the herd of nobodies.
“Fascist Sympathies: On Dorothea Brande.” The Nation.
Daum’s essays share, she says, “the preoccupations of someone in their early 40s” – losing parents, getting older, having children or not. They’re also connected by Daum’s interest in sentimentality and cultural taboos – those “unspeakable” thoughts and feelings of the book’s title.
“Meghan Daum: I Don’t Confess in My Work. That Implies Guilt.” The Guardian.