MARION MEADE is the author of Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This? and Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties. She has also written biographies of Woody Allen, Buster Keaton, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Madame Blavatsky, and Victoria Woodhull, as well as two novels about medieval France.
Although focusing primarily on four writers-Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, and Edna Ferber-biographer and novelist Meade acknowledges that her work is neither a biography nor a collective portrait. Instead, her love of the Twenties and writers "blessed with the gift of laughter" prompted her to create this series of vignettes. Unfortunately, the work fails to offer many fresh insights about the Twenties and, with the exception of a generous supply of Dorothy Parker one-liners, fails to elicit much laughter. While Meade defends as appropriate what she calls the jittery rhythms of the book, the numerous shifts in focus are disorienting. Despite these shortcomings, Meade does bring the reader to the Algonquin Hotel's Round Table, a.k.a. the "Gonk," as well as to other locales. Culled from diaries, letters, interviews, and other sources, Meade's book gives immediacy to the pain in the lives of these women, as evidenced by their insecurities, illnesses, alcoholism, failed relationships, attempted suicides, and insanity. Also included are many intimate details about other literary figures, including F. Scott Fitzgerald (Goofo), Edmund Wilson (Bunny), Robert Benchley (Fred), and Alexander Woollcott (Aleck). Appropriate, but not essential, for larger libraries.-Anthony J. Pucci, Notre Dame High Sch., Elmira, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
This light, engaging book spends the years from 1920 to 1930 with Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker and Edna Ferber. Without directly tying them together by any theme (other than that they were all "blessed with the gift of laughter"), Meade moves easily among the women, bringing to life four very different individuals and the worlds they moved in, although Ferber suffers somewhat from being surrounded by more colorful contemporaries. Parker, appropriately enough, is introduced with the words "[I]t couldn't be worse" (she was being canned by Vanity Fair) while Millay is evoked with the offhand observation, "[S]leeping with the boy from Vanity Fair was probably a bad idea. But Vincent did it anyway." The emphasis is on the personalities and personal lives of the women, but Meade (Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?) fairly seamlessly weaves professional ambitions, successes and frustrations into their stories. (It's also fascinating to be reminded that both Ferber and Millay, who could not have been more different in writing style or personality, both enjoyed a good deal of commercial success.) Serious students of the Roaring '20s or of the writers may not learn anything new here; they may also find the interior monologue of the narrative ("Bunny, poor sweet Bunny, so naive about the opposite sex") grating. And the story stops, rather than ends, in 1930. But for the curious nonexpert, the gossipy, personal tone makes for an enjoyable and informative read. 2 photo inserts not seen by PW. Agent, Lois Wallace. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
PRAISE FOR BOBBED HAIR AND BATHTUB GIN
"Reading Meade's book is like looking at a photo album while listening to a witty insider reminisce about the images. Her writing is bright, her language charged with gritty details . . . gossipy tidbits . . . and accomplished one-liners."-SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
"Stories like these are what made many of our generation long to
be writers. Paris! Greenwich Village! Free love! . . . Glamour, and
looks, and the sure sense that if we joined that insouciant
fraternity/sorority we'd be better than the rest-so much better."
-THE WASHINGTON POST