- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (July 17, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393064638
- ISBN-13: 978-0393064636
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,917,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave
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From Publishers Weekly
In 26 hit-or-miss essays, women writers provide confessions ranging from the mildly naughty (Roxana Robinson forging a parental permission slip during high school) to the grimly personal (Jennifer Gilmore suffering from acute bulimia). Few of these writers cop to behavior that is genuinely, inexcusably bad (none are currently languishing in prison), but many of these stories prove intriguing and occasionally brave, nonetheless. Joyce Maynard explains her reasons for penning a memoir about her long-ago love affair with J.D. Salinger (she calls him "Jerry"), and Laura Lipmann's hilarious tale of employee abuse recounts the months of spite-fueled work at a newspaper that produced some of her best articles. Pam Houston writes movingly of the complicated relationship she shared with her late father, and Kaui Hart Hemmings's sharp "Author Questionnaire" pokes fun at the self-involved world of San Francisco moms. Though the themes are familiar (Susan Casey's Christmastime blues especially so), and some essays could have used more fine-tuning (Tobin Levy's point gets lost among an entertaining catalog of former lovers), this is a lively assortment with enough variety to hook a wide range of readers.
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About the Author
Ellen Sussman is the author of the novel On a Night Like This. She has two daughters and lives with her husband in Los Altos Hills, California. She, too, is a bad girl.
Top customer reviews
Many of the women write of the oppressiveness of school in their teenage years, especially religious and boarding schools. The resentment and difficulties of those experiences may be best seen when one author, Susan Cheever, returns to her school as an esteemed alumnus and proceeds to wear out her welcome by reading a sexually explicit passage from her work in front of an assembly of students. Family estrangement is well represented from Pam Houston's reluctance to attend her father's funeral to Susan Casey's skipping Christmas with her parents. Personal insecurities played out in the form of being a habitual liar or being bulimic are certainly more painful than bad.
It is highly unlikely that the subject of "sexual awakening" would not be a part of a bad girl collection. Much of that occurs under the restrictions of the aforementioned schools and parents. In addition, both Mary Roach and M.J. Rose write of the sexual charged atmosphere of the confessional; Ellen Sussman writes of nascent erogenous feelings in make out sessions; Joyce Maynard, as a teenager, goes from good girl to being mistress of J.D. Salinger for a year; Maggie Estep, under the influence of a slutty girlfriend, is initiated to sexual experience by an older horse thief; and Katherine Weber experiences closeness on the top of the World Trade Center. More adventuresome are the exploits of Tobin Levy, who flies cross-country for a marathon sexual encounter, and Kim Addonizio, who taps a lucky stranger on the shoulder in a bar.
Essays on listening to loud music and driving too fast don't work so well. In addition, Daphne Merkin's attempt to get up close and personal with male anatomy lacks focus. As in all such collections, the essays have mixed appeal, are often incomplete, and are a bit repetitious. Nonetheless, they do legitimately capture female experiences.
Leave it to Erica Jong in the last essay to lend some perspective on bad girls. She contends, "The very notions of good and bad girls are dictated by male fears." In her estimation, a bad girl is no more than a "full human being." The essays back her up. They all depict real world, common behavior. These writers are all wonderful girls in their complexity and ability to communicate their experiences. Not a bad one among them.
PS - To read perhaps more gripping stories than these, five of these authors are also contributors to "The Other Woman" ed by Victoria Zackheim. They are Cheever, Houston, Leavitt, Sussman, and Weber. Teenage "badness" pales in comparison to marriages gone bad.
Included at the end is some biographical information for each contributor. If I had known that was there, I'd have flipped to it after reading each chapter. As it was, I discovered it at the end and had to flip back to remember who belonged to which story. It would have been nice to have that information included with the story, either at the beginning or immediately following, like a lot of science fiction collections do.
Although none of the essays are terrible, and almost all were fun to read, I just didn't relish reading the book as much as I expected to. It's completely possible that this is my fault. It's also possible that I've been such a bad girl that nothing really scandalizes me any more.