From Publishers Weekly
Roiphe's sharp, dazzling memoir of her literary youth in late 1950s and early 1960s New York City contains a dark story of untenable marriages, alcoholism, and outrageous sexism. Raised on Park Avenue in New York City, a graduate of Sarah Lawrence in 1957, Roiphe (Epilogue) was devoted to nonconformity at all costs, art worth dying for, and a brilliant if vaguely envisioned future "as a muse to a man of great talent." Married early to a hard-drinking, egotistical playwright, she typed his plays and supported him with secretarial work, attended parties where guests indulged in adultery and alcohol with equal enthusiasm and self-sabotage. Her marriage dissolved, and saddled with a small child, Roiphe had affairs with Paris Review founders "Doc" Humes and George Plimpton, among others, and finally found a new father for her child, who happened to be a doctor. Roiphe's narrative moves in punchy, spare episodes, nonchronologically and erratically, veering from past to present tense, and requiring effort on the part of the reader. Yet she is a masterly writer: her work presents vivid, priceless snapshots of the roiling era of Communist hysteria, faddish homosexuality, male privilege, and the heartbreaking fragility of talented men and their dreams of fame. (Mar.)
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Guaranteed a place in the pantheon of feminist writers, Roiphe has written memoirs about her childhood, marriage, motherhood, and widowhood, yet she has always glided over her twenties. Now we understand why. Roiphe’s fiercely candid account of her struggles during the cold-war era is propulsive and abrading in its exposure of unquestioned sexism and the elevation of art (made by men only) over life. Roiphe eschews chronology, instead setting out indelible incidents like the recovered shards of broken vessels, tagging each with a year. Determined to become a writer and escape the hypocrisy of her depressed mother’s pearl-and-white-gloves set, Roiphe ends up marrying an unstable, hard-drinking, and promiscuous writer and fully embracing the role of muse. She supports him and has his child, a tempestuous daughter she takes everywhere, including to George Plimpton’s now-legendary literary parties. Roiphe does name names, but she also keenly analyzes epoch-defining shibboleths and failings in lacerating tales of alcohol-exacerbated male egomania and artistic ambition and the brazen exploitation of women enthralled by the fantasy of serving greatness. We have come a long way. --Donna Seaman
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