If you're saying to yourself, "DiPrima?" you are one of the main reasons I wrote this article. Even if you have heard of Diane's work you have to admit, in a field that already has an amazing paucity of women, to overlook even one seems like a capital crime, especially this one. Diane DiPrima is a San Francisco writer and poet who works in healing, Magick, and Alchemy.Her more recent books are : Pieces of a Song -Collected Poems, City Lights, 1990, Zip Code, Coffee House Press,1992, and Seminary Poems, Floating Press, 1991.
I spoke to Diane on 9-22-93 in her cozy booklined SF apartment. We spoke of rebellion, liberty, conditioning, and on being a women in the beat generation.Joseph Matheny
JM: When you started out as a writer in the 50's, were there a lot of control systems set up to punish anyone who tried to break out the consensus mold?
DD: It was a weird time. Especially for women. Rebellion was kind of expected of men.
JM: When men rebelled they were romantic, free. Women who rebelled were categorized as being nuts.
DD:Yes. Nuts or a whore, or something. Yes.
JM:Do you feel it's any different now?
DD:Not much. I think there's been a lot of lip service paid to how much women have managed to advance. The younger women that I know are behaving pretty much like women have always behaved. Maybe they don't
have so much of the middle class housewife dream, but they'll still be the one to get a job, while the man does the writing or the painting or whatever. I can think of example after example of this. I think that the internal control systems that have been put in place for women haven't been dented. It's such a big step forward to single mom, but so much more could be going on besides that.
JM:That's where the most effective censorship and control systems reside, inside ourselves, our head!
DD:Yes! How it gets there is interesting too.
JM: How do you think they get there?
DD:I would guess that it starts in the womb. Getting imprinted with the language pattern that's around you. The way people move, the way they hold themselves.To break it you'd have to do some really deliberate debriefing, on every level. The place where I was lucky in my own life was that I had a grandfather who was an anarchist. I didn't see much of him after I was 7 because my parents thought he was bad for me, but from 3 to 7 I saw a lot of him. I was still malleable enough so some debriefing occurred there. He would tell me these really weird fables about the world. He would read Dante to me and take me to the old peoples anarchist rallies, and all this showed me these other possibilities...
JM:So you had an early imprint of a kind of...anti-authority, authority figure.(laughs)
DD:(laughing) Yes! Aside from being an anti-authority authority figure the imprint that I got from him and my grandmother as well , was of two people who weren't afraid, at least from my child's point of perspective. They would just go ahead and do what they believed in. In all the other years of my early life I never encountered anyone else who wasn't afraid. I think kids today may be a little better off in that they encounter a few people who either aren't afraid, or who will go ahead and try something anyway, whatever it is. There's a possibility of that model, but during my childhood that was a very unusual model. I was born in 1934, during the depression,and everyone seemed to be frozenwithterror. We.....will....do... what....we....are....told!(laughs) and I don't think it's changed that much. Every day people are told that they should be afraid of not having health insurance, they're going to die in the gutter and to be afraid of all these things that aren't threats at the moment. Of course there are present threats but nobody's paying attention to those.
JM:It seems to me that rebellion itself has become a commodity, the media has co-opted rebellions like rock-n-roll, Dada, Surrealism, poetry, the rebel figure. Do you feel that this co-option has succeeded in making rebellion somewhat ineffectual?
DD:No. What your seeing is an old problem in the arts. Everything is always co-opted, and as soon as possible. As Cocteau used to talk about,you have to be a kind of acrobat or a tightrope walker. Stay 3 jumps ahead of what they can figure out about what you're doing, so by the time the media figures out that your writing, say, women and wolves, you're on to not just a point of view of rebellion or outdoing them, or anything like that. It's more a point of view of how long can you stay with one thing. Where do you want to go? You don't want to do anything you already know or that you've already figured out. So it comes naturally to the artist to keep making those jumps, that is ,if they don't fall into the old "jeez, I still don't own a microwave" programs.
JM:Reminds me of a story about Aldous Huxley. When asked if he had read all the books in his quite impressive library he replied, "God no! Who would want a library full of books that they had already read?"
DD:(laughs)It is true that rebellion is co-opted, but then it always gets out of their hands, it slithers in some other direction. Then they go "oh,how can we make this part of the system?" Like rap. OK, they are co-opting all this regular rap, but now this surreal rap is starting, native tongue, surreal imagery, spiritual anarchism rap, it's not about girls or politics or race and it's starting to happen.
JM:Is this something your daughter brings to your attention?
DD:Yes, I go over once in awhile and catch up on whats going on. You see as soon as something is defined, it wiggles off in another direction. I don't think that it's such a big problem in the sense of reaching a lot of people. How does the artist reach a large audience? The people that know are always going to find the new edge, but the mainstream are not that smart or the guy making a top 40 record is not that smart. It often takes them a long time to figure it out. Now that is a problem, because we don't have the time. We need to reach everybody, right away,because we have to stop the system dead in it's tracks. It's no longer a question of dismantling the system. There isn't enough time to take it apart, we just have to stop it.
JM: Do you feel that there's a somewhat centralized or conscious attempt to defuse radical art or rebellion through cooption or is it just < "the nature of the beast", so to speak.
DD:I think it goes back and forth.There are times when it's conscious, but not a single hierarchical conspiracy but rather a hydra headed conspiracy. Then there are other times that it doesn't need to be conscious anymore,
because that 's the mold, that pattern has been set, so everyone goes right on doing things that way. I'm not quite sure which point we're at right now in history. It's so transitional and craz y that I wouldn't hazard a guess. Just check your COINTELPRO history to see an example of a conscious conspiracy to stop us. Other times it was just a repetition of what has gone on before. Like the ants going back to where the garbage used to be.(laughs)
DD:Yes, and it's all in place when the next so called conspiracy comes along, which is very handy isn't it? I Wonder how we've made this monster we have here?
JM:Ok. Say we stop it dead in it's tracks. What then?
DD:It would be nice to say it's unimaginable, wouldn't that be great. That would be my hope!(laughs) For one thing, we'd have to use the same tables, wear the same shoes longer, read a lot of the same books, maybe for the next few hundred years. Dumps would become valuable places to mine!
JM:They already are to me!
DD:To some people,yes, but not to enough people. Screeching to a halt seems like the only possible solution and I'm not even sure how you would go about it. Of course the good old general strike would be a nice start.
JM:As long as we're on the subject of deconstructing, how do you feel about the predominant intellectual fad of post modernism, deconstrution, and the nihilism implicit in these systems?
DD:Well, when I read that stuff, it's so frustrating. Western thought always keeps stopping on the brink. It never really makes that extra step. It could really do with an infusion of Buddhist logic. At least 4 fold logic and then what's beyond that. It seems that although it's dressed up in new language, nothing really new has happened in philosophy in the 20th century. Well, maybe not since Wittgenstein. It seems like the same old thing. You know, sometimes when people ask me for poems now, I'll send out poems that have been lying around for years, I don't always have new poems lying around everywhere, and these things that I wrote as cut-up stuff, cutting up each others dreams in workshops and such. I'll send these out. Everyone seems to be taking them very seriously and publishing them. They think I'm working off of some language theory when actually these are just things I did for fun.
JM: What are you doing now?
DD:I'm working on 2 prose books. One is called "Recollections of My Life as a Women". I'm 120 pages into it and I'm still 8 years old. I'm still dealing with how the conditioning happened. In my generation a lot of it happened with battering, you got hit a lot, and screaming. Your basic conditioning came through abuse, not really different from concentration camps or anything else. I think think someday we're going to look back on how we're handling kids at this point in history and wonder how we could treat them such. Like when people say "how could women stand it when people did such and such? We'll be saying that about the way children are treated.
JM:What's the other book?
DD:The other prose book is called "Not Quite Buffalo Stew". It's just a rollicking, fun, surreal novel about life in California. It's in the first person, and in the 2nd or 3rd chapter in I found out that the "I" that was the narrator was a man, so that breaks a lot of rules already. The "I" is a drug smuggler named Lynx. There isn't a whole lot of continuity, just whatever scenes wanted to write themselves.
JM:Are you using any kind or random/divination systems, ie, cut-ups, grab bag, I ching, Tarot, coin tossing, etc.?
DD: Not with this one. This one dictates itself. The system I guess I'm using is that I can't write it at home. It won't happen anywhere that's familiar turf and it likes to happen while I'm driving. So I'll probably head for Nevada at some point and finish it.
JM:What do you see in the future for poetry and literature?
DD:I would like to see authors really use Magick to reach themes. I'd like to see more work coming out of visioning and trance. I'm really tired of reading about human beings! There's all these other beings, I'd like to see a real dimensional jump and I'd like to see people working on the technical problems. Like when you come back from trance or visioning, or drugs and what you can write down about it at that moment. What you can make into an actual piece, we haven't figured it out yet. Yeats certainly didn't figure it out. It's more than needing a new language. There are actual forms we need to find or the forms have to find us, that will hold all that material without trying to make it reductive. The attempts at visionary painting in the 60's and Yeats' last poems show how vision didn't translate into these old artistic forms. Of course taking the raw material and presenting that as a piece doesn't work either. Maybe a blending of vision, word, and sounds can achieve something. We haven't really had time to think about what the computer is. Most of us still think of it as a typewriter, or a calculator. We don't think of it as it's own dimension. It has it's own medium, possibilities, to bring this kind of material across. I also think about deliberate invocation to find the plane or thing you want to write about.
JM:Do you see us as heading into a post literate society?
DD:Yes, we might be. I don't think that will stop poetry, in fact it won't stop any of the arts at all. Even if it's oral there may be a split like there was in Europe when there was the written literature in Latin and then there was the oral poems of the singers in the Vulgate. We have that to a degree already with the poetry of the great song writers. Really though, I don't think literate or post literate really matters. Were cave paintings literate or pre-literate? Did they read those paintings or just look at them?(laughs) Of course the only reason a completely literate society was developed was for thought control, and now that thought control can be done via T.V, etc. it's not really needed anymore. They don't want everyone reading Schopenhauer!
DD:Everyone needs to remember that they can buy a small press or laser writer, or copy machine, and go home and do what the fuck they please and it will take a very long time for anyone to catch up with them all! No one seems to remember about a few years ago in Czechoslovakia, without access to all this technology like we have here, even with every one of their typewriters registered to the police, they still managed to publish their work! In order to do this they would they would type it with 10 carbon papers to make 10 copies! We are in a situation here in the US where no one can register all the computers, no one can figure out where alll the copy machines are. Get one now! Remember we can do it without government money. Government money is poison, take it when you need it, but don't get hooked. We can say what we want. They can't possibly keep up with us all.Real decentralization!
JM:That's great, helping people to find their true desires, but do you think that we're so full of false, spectacle manufactured desires that we can no longer identify our true desires?
DD:I think it doesn't take that long to deprogram false desires. Anyone who knows that they have the desire to know that about themselves, what their true desires are, will find the tools to do it. Drugs, autohypnosis, you could also do it by following the false desires until they lead to a dead end like Blake recommended....
JM:Hmmm ... somehow that seems ... very American ...
DD:Hmmm ... You're right ...
Nin's Sabina is a beautiful woman lost in the labyrinth of her own lies. One desperate evening she calls a random number and begins to confess her crimes. The man who answers the phone is not only a stranger, but also a "lie detector". She hangs up on him after learning this but he traces her call and leaves his bed to find her. The lie detector enters a small, darkly lit bar later on that evening and sits in the shadows, scanning the room for the strange woman's voice. There, in the center of the bar, stands a beautiful woman, surrounded by captivated men as she tells them fantastical stories of her life in Marrakesh and of her theater days in London. The lie detector recognizes the woman's voice and drinks in her body, her dark eyes and red and silver dress. Her hand motions are nervous and she keeps smiling during the serious parts of her tales. The lie detector knows she is lying. But he is certain he will find out the truth.
Sabina leaves the tiny Harlem bar and proceeds to hail a taxi home to Greenwich Village. Her husband does not expect her back from Provincetown, Massachusetts for another week, but she can no longer stand being in the city another night without him. She returns home and finds the apartment empty. She runs a bath but before she can clean off the scents of other men's desires in the water she hears her husband's key in the lock. It will be yet another evening of pretending to be someone else for Sabina. She is almost used to it now. She is an actress - but in real life and not on the stage. Earlier this evening she was a downtown seductress and a well traveled actress. In the midst of her performance she had almost lost her character when she called the lie detector. She had nearly told him the whole truth of her life. She had almost destroyed the varied fragments of her disjointed self that made her feel somehow whole. She had almost lost control - and she had never slipped up like that before.
Instead she lives out her role of doting, loving wife in her husband's arms. She dresses in white chiffon and puts his feet up after work, cooking exotic meals for him and reading poetry to him by the fireplace. She is gripped by a love so fierce and consuming it lifts her soul whenever she is near him. But somehow it is still not enough - or it's too much altogether.
She feels a childlike devotion to her husband which mirrors her complex girlhood worship of her Don Juan father. Like her own cosmopolitan and remote father, Sabina has become a "Donna Juana" of sorts; seducing countless men in an effort to transfer her father's womanizing experiences onto her own sexual compulsions. Much like Nin's other works exploring her lifelong obsession for her father and his abandonment of her, in another work, Winter of Artifice she writes of her father as a man who "...was offended that she had not died completely, that she had not spent the rest of her life yearning for him. He did not understand that she had continued to love him better by living than by dying for him. She had loved him in life, lived for him and created for him." Sabina feels this way about her father and feels perhaps she has to "die" for him, to create an inner death of herself and to reincarnate as a mirror image of him in order to "win him back" and "seduce" him into "loving her once more" as she feels he 'must' have once upon a time.
Sabina moves through the streets of 1940's New York in search of that insubstantial otherworldly mystical "something". She feels an unknown presence watching her. The lie detector is following her everywhere. He is like the silent confessor who becomes obsessed with his once detached object of study. He is all at once omniscient god, father, priest, judge and psychoanalyst, but he is too far removed from her to make actual contact with her. He is merely a witness to her affairs with a beautiful Italian actor, an afro-Cuban drummer and a shell shocked English army pilot. He watches as Sabina becomes haunted by the pilot, who leaves her sleeping in her tiny rented bungalow on Long Island and disappears into the thick, seashore mist. Sabina searches the streets and all the burroughs for the mysterious pilot. She hunts in every corner, trying to trace his last footprints as the lie detector in turn follows hers. She looks into every new face for any sign of him, any reminder. She is obsessed with the "idea" of him and with the stories still lingering in her head of his tragic, vivid tales of W.W.II combat. In Spy she describes their union as a momentary escape from their exterior realities.
"They fled from the eyes of the world, the singer's prophetic, harsh, ovarian prologues. Down the rusty bars of ladders to the undergrounds of the night propitious to the first man and woman at the beginning of the world, where there were no words by which to possess each other, no music for serenades, no presents to court with, no tournaments to impress, and force a yielding, no secondary instruments, no adornments, necklaces, crowns to subdue, but only one ritual, a joyous, joyous, joyous, joyous impaling of woman on man's sensual mast."
During their solitary night of passion he described the pungent smells of leaking airplane fluid and burning flesh. He spoke with an eerie calm of his shot down comrades and of the blood he shed in the heat of battle. He brought out the demons of war still raging within him underneath his deadly stillness and penetrates this chaos into Sabina's body during violent lovemaking. She absorbs all his ghosts and hopeless feelings of death and darkness. Here is the vicious, invasive communion with man (god) she has waited for since her first sexual awakening, since the moment her father turned away from her with a cold goodbye. The pilots' poison tastes sweet to Sabina. Instead of looking for an antidote she searches for another injection. She has found her true drug.
Walking aimlessly while her husband is away on another business trip and giving up her search for the pilot, Sabina's childhood memories of her father flood back to her. The lie detector is close by but invisible. Her father's last letter to her read in part that she was, "the only woman (her father) had not conquered" and he writes to her that, "God and society would never allow it. However we can still keep our dreams and share our most intimate secrets with each other... as the only two people who can truly understand each other and our many amours." Her father offers her a relationship with ties, not a regular father-daughter bond but a closed off secret communion where Sabina is only one piece of herself with him... and nothing more.
Sabina's idealized image of her father is slowly breaking into a thousand shards of shattered glass in her newfound disillusionment. The spell of sex and forgetting is not working anymore. She cannot simply have random interludes and re-emerge unscathed. She begins to see the little lies buried within each of her father's stories and the subtle trickery within each one of his "professions of undying 'fatherly' love" for her. It slowly dawns on her she has not only become a warped caricature of her father, copying his own seductions not as an expression of her own desire but as an uninformed means of understanding him and winning his approval and affection - but she also realizes that her father is ultimately incapable of ever being really honest with her (or himself). Despite his recent attention he will forever be the impersonal egoist. He will never be conquered and won.
Sabina sought out the pilot in the ho pes of relief from her lifelong suffering at the hands of her insatiable desire to be loved (transformed into a need for sexual and emotional possession in her adult years). She wishes to recapture again and again the intense pleasure and pain of their brief union because she felt near the brink of not only release of her own demons (by ingesting someone else's) but also the possibility of being psychically jolted out of her own neuroses long enough to feel "alive" again.
She is at the point where she also senses the lie detectors' presence strongly enough she begins to associate him as something of a slightly malevolent guardian angel. She cannot evade him, she cannot hide from herself, from her lies and from the outside world. She decides to face the lie detector (god, father, priest, judge, psychoanalyst). As the lie detector rests in the lobby of the hotel Sabina checks herself into he is startled as a hotel key drops into his lap from behind. He turns around to catch her but Sabina has already disappeared into a closing elevator. He stands up, disheveled, with a mixed look of uncertainty and determination on his face, and walks up the stairs to her room. This is the hour where he becomes a true confessor or he gives up forever and leaves her alone. He walks into the room through the door without knocking, using the key. He finds Sabina lying on the chaise lounge and he awkwardly enters, clearing his throat to make her aware of his presence.
"I'm an official." He says quietly. "I mean you no harm."
"I know." She answers and motions for him to sit at a nearby chair.
"Do you break your own rules often?" She asks.
"No." He answers and sits.
"It's all right. I called you..." She replies and pauses a moment. "I think I understand why now."
They sit in silence for several moments. It is not uncomfortable.
"You're my conscience or my demonic guardian angel or my god or I don't know what. I don't care anymore." She sighs. "You know what I want, don't you?"
"I think..." He answers, looking out the window.
"Say it." She commands.
"You have something to confess?" He asks as he did the first time they spoke.
She breathes deeply and clenches her fists before answering him.
"Yes. Yes, I do... I have many things to confess."
"Are you ready Sabina?"
Plath was born October 27, 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts to Otto (a professor of biology and German) and Aurelia Plath. After Plath's father died in 1940, the family moved to Wellesley where Plath's mother took a teaching position at Boston University. The death of her father, who doted on Sylvia, became a source of morbid curiosity combined with insecurity that would affect Sylvia throughout her life. Many of Sylvia's later poems would focus on death: relating to the loss of her father or focusing on her own suicidal thoughts.
Growing up in an education-focused environment, Sylvia became interested in art and writing at an early age. She was a precocious child who enjoyed academic success throughout every stage of her school career. At 8 1/2 Sylvia Plath had her first poem published in the Boston Sunday Herald. Over the next few years she won various contests and awards for her writing. Her poems were also published in several magazines and school journals. Aided by her mother, Plath devoted a considerable amount of time in her youth meticulously editing her early poems and submitting them for publication.
Just before entering Smith College, Plath's first story "And Summer Will Not Come Again" was published in Seventeen magazine in August 1950. Sylvia enjoyed success at Smith and continued writing short stories and poems with great intensity. She took several rigorous writing courses and her work was published again in Seventeen and other national magazines such as Mademoiselle and The Christian Science Monitor.
In 1952, Plath was chosen to be a guest editor in Mademoiselle's College Board Contest. This was a great honor for Sylvia who had also won the magazine's national poetry contest.
The anxiety and stress of trying to achieve perfection caught up with Plath in her Junior year. On August 24, 1953, after receiving disappointing news that she hadn't been accepted to a prestigious Harvard summer course, she attempted suicide by swallowing a large number of sleeping pills and crawling into a hole in the family's cellar. The disappearance was well publicized in local papers. She was found two days later by her family, and entered into a long series of treatments for her depression and suicidal thoughts, including psychotherapy, medication and electroshock.
During her senior year at Smith, Plath wrote many excellent prose pieces and short stories. She also won several prizes for her writing and completed a collection of fifty-five poems titled "Circus in Three Rings" for an independent study course in poetry. Plath also continued to be published in places such as The Nation and The Atlantic Monthly. In June 1995, she graduated summa cum laude and was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to Newnham College at Cambridge University.
In February 1956, Plath met fellow poet Ted Hughes and married him 4 months later. Their relationship was intense from the beginning and based on her journal entries, Sylvia seemed to have an almost obsessive preoccupation with Hughes and his motives. While Hughes and Plath supported each other creatively, they often had a hard time making ends meet while waiting for their literary careers to pay off. Sylvia was most devoted to the task of getting Hughes recognized and published and spent a great deal of time working toward this goal by preparing and submitting his pieces for review and publication.
In April 1960, Plath and Hughes had their first child, Frieda, followed by a son, Nicholas, less than two years later. Even with the added stress of caring for two small children in sometimes less than ideal conditions, Sylvia still managed to find time to work on her poetry and short stories and begun work on a novel.
Sylvia's only completed novel, The Bell Jar, was published in January 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. While Plath was extremely anxious about its debut, it received mixed reviews. However, most recognized the author's raw talent and the ability to tell a chilling account of a young woman on the brink of self-destruction. One reviewer noted, "[The Bell Jar] is the first feminine novel in a Salinger mood." The Bell Jar is a haunting autobiographical tale of Sylvia's experiences as a young college student, and includes details of events surrounding her experience in New York as the Mademoiselle Managing Guest Editor and her subsequent breakdown and suicide attempt.
At age 30 Plath succeeded in committing the suicide she had thought about for most of her life. With her two small children upstairs, Plath killed herself in the early morning of Feb. 11, 1963. The details of her last few days are sketchy at best, but this act seemed to be the fulfillment of years of pain.
While Plath was recognized in some circles as a gifted writer, it is not until after her death that she became widely known. Many took notice immediately after her death as a result of A. Alvarez's tribute to Sylvia in the Observer on February 17, 1963. The obituary praised Sylvia as a writer and included four of Sylvias last poems, including "Daddy" and "Lady Lazarus". Alvarez is also credited for leaking the secret of Plath's pseudonym.
Ted Hughes held full copyright control of Plath's work and most of her collections and poems were published well after her death. In 1965, Hughes published Plath's collection of poems, Ariel, which he edited and arranged much differently than Plath had reportedly intended. In 1975, Plath's mother, Aurelia, published a large collection of Sylvia's letters, Letters Home by Sylvia Plath, Correspondence 1950-1963. Hughes published two more widely received volumes: 1977's Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams and Other Prose Writings and in 1981, Sylvia Plath, The Collected Poems which won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
O'Connor was educated at Georgia State College for Women, and graduated in 1945. The following year, she published her first short story, "The Geranium". She then went on to study creative writing at the University of Iowa, where she received her M.F.A. in 1947.
In 1950, she finished the novel Wise Blood, which tells the tale of Hazel Motes, a man who tries to start the Church Without Christ. Later that year, she began suffering from lupus, and returned home to the family farm in Milledgeville, where she raised peacocks and wrote. She was given cortisone injections, which managed to stop the disease, but the cortisone weakened her bones to such an extent that she had to walk on crutches from 1955 until the end of her life. After a trip to Lourdes, she said she had "the best-looking crutches in Europe", a comment that is characteristic of both her humor and her refusal to feel sorry for herself.
Wise Blood was published in 1952 (John Huston turned it into a film in 1979). Her second novel, The Violent Bear it Away, was published in 1960, and it was also religious in nature.
O'Connor was a devout Roman Catholic, yet the characters she portrayed in her work were Protestant. She explained this by saying that Protestants are more likely to express their faith through dramatic action. This fit with her philosophy on writing about religious matters, in that she preferred not to approach the subject directly, but rather through the depiction of human actions.
Her first book of short stories, A Good Man is Hard to Find, was published in 1955, and contained pieces such as "The Life You Save May Be Your Own" and "Good Country People." Her short stories are darkly comic, and feature a deep understanding of the rhythms of everyday Southern life, and a keen ear for Southern speech patterns. Critics referred to her as a maker of grotesques, as she often focused her tales on the darkness of human nature. To this label she commented, "Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic."
Flannery O'Connor died from lupus on August 3, 1964 at the age of 39, leaving behind 31 short stories, various letters and speeches, and two novels. Posthumous collections include Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965), Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (1969), The Complete Short Stories of Flannery O'Connor (1971 - National Book Award Winner), The Habit of Being: Letters (1979), The Presence of Grace and Other Book Reviews (1983), The Correspondence of Flannery O'Connor and the Brainars Cheneys (1986), and Complete Works (1988).
January 11, 1915 "Today went by in the usual way. We went to school, I work as hard as I can but that doesn't interfere with my doing the things I like best. I am now writing a story, 'Poor Little Boy.' I only like things that are sad or funny. "I now hate school and everything American. Why, Maman asked me and my aunt too. Why? Here is the answer. Because I love only silence and here there is noise all the time. Everything here is dark, enclosed, severe, and I love sunny landscapes, I love to see the sky. I love to admire the beauties of nature in silence and here the buildings are so high, so high that one sees nothing, or if one sees a little something out of the window, it isn't a beautiful sky that is pale blue, pale pink or a calm white. No, that isn't what one sees here. One sees a dark sky, heavy, mournful, soiled and darkened by the vanity and pride of modern men and women. I say that because I don't like anything modern. I would like to live in the first century in ancient Rome, I would like to live in the time of grand castles and gracious ladies. I would like to live in the time of Charlotte Corday when every woman could become a heroine, and so on. The truth is I would like to save France from its afflictions, but we are no longer living in the era of Joan of Arc or Jeanne Hachette, and the best thing I can do is keep quiet and out of sight. Where was I when I asked why I don't like America and got into the period when I would like to live? I shall go on and I'm sure my diary has guessed the answer and I can give my imagination free rein. Oh, if I could rise up and annihilate all those ambitious countries that are the cause of Belgium's misfortune and France's tears. But once again I must bow my head and give way to older people who will come along later, perhaps, as I hope. I have to recognize that I am crazy, but since my diary is the diary of a madwoman, I can't write only reasonable things, and if I did they wouldn't be my own thoughts. So while I await the great woman who will save France, I shall go to bed." p. 42-43
This passage is classic early Linotte. Anais is at a period where she loathes school and terribly misses the manners and customs of the old country. She misses her bohemian life in France and Belgium, even her more difficult life in sunny Spain with her beloved granmere and sour granpere. Ofcourse most of all she misses her papa and the "better" life she deludes herself into thinking they had together. She is still in the stage of her early life where she believes in heroines and fables and suppliments her ardor for 'Christ' in mass each Sunday with her secret ardor for her father. Her heart is broken but her mind is also quite awake and active. She is reading books alphabetically in New York Public Library, making friends and spending time with her mother's spillover of expatriate Bohemian musician friends from Europe and South America, especially from her longtime home in Cuba. World War One is striking a heavy blow on France and on Anais, who reads about heroines Charlotte Corday and Jeanne d'Arc fervently into the night by candlelight and imagines herself a grown woman of invincible power, who can swoop down upon France, lead her nation of heroic men and "save France" from the 'German tyrants'. After her reveries she invariably sinks back into reality in her diaries by noting she is "only a girl" a small nothing of a girl who cannot save France. She is limited by her age, size, health and the historical times. For women of her time, most are to be wives and mothers, not heroines (or for the most part, writers and artists as sole occupations, either) and Anais senses this about her future. She examines her life in "dreary oppressive New York" as it progresses. More "womanly duties" are pressed upon her such as cooking, cleaning and above all else sewing, and she is scolded for staying indoors too often and "scribbling" in her "silly book", the Diary.
At the point where Anais is almost 15 years old she still pines for her Papa but has given up hope of him 'magically' appearing in New York for Christmas. They maintain a long correspondance (more fervently and regularly on Anais' part). Joaquin and Thorvald (her brothers) are growing quickly, but Anais still towers over them. They live in the city, in a large house now, renting out rooms to boarders. John O'Connell, a blue-eyed, gentle, well behaved younger boy from school, is Anais' first innocent 'romance'. Anais detests school...she does like the temporary public school right now, except for English Grammar classes and Math. She is learning how to sow, cook, clean and keep the house together. She is still fervent about France and the War but talks about it less. She dicusses the difference between dreaming and reality, and how there are two sides to her nature. Some days she chooses Life [Reality] and some days she chooses Dreaming. She writes stories...she reads Hugo, Eliot and other great authors. An artist wants her to sit for a portrait because of her Catalan features inherited from her father. Anais confides in her diary that she is secretly pleased by this. Rosa (her mother) tries to make life fun for the children while working very hard and she still manages to sing in operas sometimes. Anais writes poetry and dances in a Jeanne d'Arc d'onfrey play. She discovers the real goings-on of backstage life which both enchants and disillusions her. Anais has many little girlfriends now and a club of well wishers and do gooders...and edits a small magazine of poetry, stories and pictures. She prays France wil be saved from the Germans. She still hopes to see her father one day again. She still dreams of meeting her other half, her shadow, a man like the heroes in her books, a blue eyed stranger who will understand her.
Anais, at 16, is very introspective, very full of life, in her joy and in her despair, and she is really growing at this point in her life. She is also very innocent in many ways and very loving and gentle hearted. She is intelligent and writes a diary that is compelling and playful and serious and meaningful and intimate and humourous. She writes with a depth and gravity, even while dreaming of violinists and the French Academie. She writes about her interior life and her impressions above the daily grind.
Linotte is the essence of who Anais was in her early life, a fragment of her self she carried with her her entire life. Her thoughts, her dreams, her beliefs, her doubts, her regrets, her ideals, her problems, her questions. It is a journey of one writer's life as they evolve from child to young woman. Many readers unfamiliar with the breadth of her work picture Anais Nin as a bestselling erotic writer or famed Diary writer with a risque' and bohemian past. Some view her in relation to any number of her friendships with celebrated artists and writers. Some readers (and critics) cannot see past her sexual exploration later in her life, and view her as only writing in a certain vein. But Linotte is a portrait of an immigrant girl in the early part of the 20th century writing a love letter to her absent father which eventually becomes her life's masterpiece; the first chapter in her acclaimed series of Diaries.
Anais wanted to be an artist from the very moment she could speak. She loved books, stories, artists, musicians, fine music, good food, and grew accustomed to being surrounded by the sounds of late night bohemian laughter from her parents dinner parties heard from the downstairs parlor before the two were separated. Anais was a model for her father's early photographs at this time and used to steal into his study when he was away and read all his books voraciously. She was seriously ill as a child and nearly died twice from various internal organ afflictions. If not for a kind Belgian couple and the care of three Belgian nurses, Ana's Nin might never have made the impact on literature and the feminist movement that she did later on in life, from her work spanning her Diaries written in the the tumultuous 30's to her eventual critical success in the socially aware 60's and 70's.
In New York, Ana's loved writing in her diary, dreaming, philosophizing, and recording her thoughts and reflections as she grew into a beautiful young woman with grand dreams and a host of insecurities. She wrote about her ideal "shadow", a muse, her "prince that will come one day", and about her many concieved shortcomings. She had an active imagination and preferred rainy days of reading curled up with a wonderful book or her diary at the little windowsill seat - and she loved to dance and had a connection to nature heavily influenced by poets like Byron, Blake and the New England Transcendentalists. Her Catholic faith wavered in and out due to philosophical doubts about the meaning of life and suffering, caused by her anguish over her beloved war torn France and the deep rift felt inside her since being uprooted. "I envy those who never leave their native land." she wrote in Linotte, "No one but God knows my bitter sorrow. My dreams are always about Papa. He comes back, I kiss him, he presses me to his heart. That moment is sweet, but afterward sadness comes again with the truth and my heart weeps and weeps again." Her father had let them all down, especially Anaos, and she felt abandoned and unloved in the most important of ways for a child. Gradually her idealized image of him began to fade, though she would have a lifelong fixation on him explored in her writing -and in her myriad of sexual and romantic unions. She was consumed by a tireless examination of her search for the ideal father figure in many of her lovers discussed in psychoanalysis.
After living in New York for nine years, at twenty Anais married Hugh Guiler (later known as engravist and filmaker of "Bells of Atlantis" and "Jazz of lights" Ian Hugo), a banker in the twenties and thirties, and moved back to Paris with him. Nin began writing short stories (later published as Waste of Timelessness) with publication in mind, but felt torn between her duties as a conservative banker's wife and her desire for artistic expression. Nevertheless, it was around this time that Nin published her first work, D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study (1932), which was well-recieved.
Then she met self proclaimed gangster-poet Henry Miller, a struggling Brooklyn writer in Paris, through her lawyer. Miller and especially his wife, the mythic June Mansfield Miller, enchanted Anais by their 'hard' bohemian living and their associations with the creme de la creme of Paris' underbelly (including actor and creator of theatre de cruelte, Antonin Artaud). "Henry came to Louveciennes with June." she writes about her first meeting with June in the unexpurgated diary Henry and June, "As June walked towards me from the darkness of the garden into the light of the door, I saw for the first time the most beautiful woman on earth. A startlingly white face, burning dark eyes, a face so alive I felt it would consume itself before my eyes. Years ago I tried to imagine a true beauty; I created in my mind an image of just such a woman. I had never seen her until last night. Yet I knew long ago the phosphorescent color of her skin, her huntress profile, the evenness of her teeth. She is bizarre, fantastic, nervous, like someone in a high fever. Her beauty drowned me. As I sat before her, I felt I would do anything she asked of me. Henry suddenly faded. She was color and brilliance and strangeness."
Anais felt that becoming aquainted with members of Montparnasse's underworld of prostitutes, thieves and drug addicts was going to liberate not only her writing but her sexuality and her mind. Nin began examining her 'suburban' existence more closely and felt she had to reconcile her life as an artist with her bouts of depression and feelings of isolation tucked away in the beautiful prison house of Louveciennes. To resolve her inner turmoil between her married 'proper' life and her burgeoning bohemian tastes, her cousin Eduardo recommended she enter therapy with the prominent Parisian psychoanalyst Rene Allendy. This later led to analyzation and tutorship with former Freud disciple, Otto Rank (Art and Artist). Eventually, Nin studied under Rank, working in his practice in New York City in the mid to late 1930s.
She also became deeply influenced by writers like Lawrence, Proust, and in particular Djuna Barnes' novel Nightwood. Nin channelled her evolving psycho-sexual impressions of the vicious circle/love triangle between her, Henry and June into the surrealistic prose-poem House of Incest and in her Diaries. She also worked along her compatriates on a dollar a page erotica, later the poetic, emotive bestselling Delta of Venus and Little Birds.
In the mid-to-late 1930s, Nin, Miller, Lawrence Durell and other writers in the Villa Seurat circle who experienced difficulty finding publishers founded Siana Editions (Anais spelled backwards!) to publish their own works. Nin in particular could find no one to publish House of Incest (1936) or Winter of Artifice. In 1939 these books were well-received in Europe. However, when Anais eventually moved back to New York City in 1939 with her husband, she found American publishers and the average reading public closed off to her work. Miller achieved critical and commercial success decades before Nin, despite her initial efforts to edit, support and publish him along with her own work. After several years of trying to place her works with American publishers, Nin bought a second-hand printing press with a loan from Bookseller and founder of New York's famed Gotham Book Mart and with the help of Anais' latest paramour, Peruvian political activist Gonzalo More, she began to typeset and print her own books. Nin's work eventually caught the attention of critic Edmund Wilson, who praised her writing and helped her on the road to obtaining an American publisher.
It was Nin's Diary, however, that brought her the greatest success and critical acceptance that she was to recieve. Nin never intended the two hundred manuscript volumes for publication, and many, including Miller, Rank, Alfred Perles, Durrel and Allendy, tried to convince Anais that her obsessive diary writing was destroying her chance at writing the great American novel. However Nin decided she had to "go her own way, the woman's way" and continue her li felong odyssey of self exploration and reflection through the Diaries. To reconcile fiction and fact Nin eventually began rewriting diary entries into her fiction and vice versa, protecting those who wanted to maintain their privacy (usually lovers) while still writing in her preferred medium.
Nin was involved in the some of the most interesting literary and artistic movements of the 20th century including the outskirts of Paris' 1920's Lost Generation, the psychoanalytic and surrealist movements of the 30s and 40s, the Beat movement of the 50's in Greenwich Village, the avant garde crowd in 60's California and the women's movement of the 70's. She maintained relationships (and kept two bi-coastal "husbands" in the later part of her life) with many vital artists and writers over her lifespan and was in great demand as a lecturer at universities across the United States until she died of cancer in 1977.
The inimitable Dorothy Parker is often known more for her sharp wit and cynicism than for her actual work. As with many literary figures, Parker's life was filled with drama and personal darkness, which often came through in her writing.
Parker was born Dorothy Rothschild August 22, 1893 in West End, New Jersey (now known as Long Branch) to a Jewish father and Scottish mother, J. Henry and Eliza A. (Marston) Rothschild. Dorothy had three considerably older siblings and felt lonely as a child. While the Rothschilds were a relatively affluent family, Parker recalled an unhappy childhood in later interviews. This unhappiness, along with the early deaths of her mother (who died when Parker was not yet 5), stepmother, brother (who went down with the Titanic) and father, would construct the framework for her dark cynicism and tendency toward morbid thoughts.
Although her father was Jewish, Dorothy attended Catholic school until age 13, at which time she was enrolled in an exclusive private school where she discovered a love of language and literature as well as political issues and current events. She also began to write and recite poetry during this time, and was instructed on proper enunciation. In 1908 the founder of the school died, and Dorothy's formal education ended at age 14. A short time later Dorothy's father died, and she went to live in a boarding house in New York at 103rd and Broadway, working her way through the summer playing the piano at a dance school. It was during this time that she had her first poem ("Any Porch") published in Vanity Fair. She then secured a job writing captions for Vogue, where her wit began to peek through in captions such as "Brevity is the Soul of Lingerie, as the Petticoat said to the Chemise". Sensing that Dorothy required more meaty subject matter to match her incisive wit, the editors transferred her back to Vanity Fair. There she wrote a variety of features and was hired as a drama reviewer, replacing P.G. Wodehouse. Parker gained her initial recognition with her columns for the magazine as she continued writing her short stories and poems.
Dorothy Rothschild married Edwin Pond Parker in 1917. Eddie Parker was a Wall Street broker from a distinguished family and a recent enlistee into the US Army. Eventually her husband was called to duty overseas and she continued her life and career in New York. In 1919 she met up with two recent hires of Vanity Fair, Robert Benchley and Robert Sherwood. She connected with the two editors instantly and had lunch with both almost daily. Parker found a mentor and friend in Benchley, who guided her by introducing her to the style of journalistic writing. These lunches with Benchley and Sherwood at the Algonquin Hotel became the basis for the now famous Algonquin Round Table.
Parker continued to write for Vanity Fair and became an integral member of the Round Table, trading barbs and intellectual criticisms with her contemporaries in the New York drama and journalism circles. The group engaged in spirited battles of wit and during a game of "I Can Give You a Sentence," Parker reportedly quipped. "You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think." As she honed her writing skills (and her humor) in her work as drama reviewer for Vanity Fair, her reviews became more acerbic and in 1920 she was fired from this position for such outspoken criticism. Parker went on to become the drama critic for Ainslee's magazine and began submitting freelance work to Life. By this time Parker had quite a widespread reputation and experienced a span of high productivity, writing essays and sketches for publications such as Saturday Evening Post and Ladies Home Journal. She continued to be a part of the New York social scene and found herself finding acquaintances and business connections with the likes of Lillian Gish and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. (Note: Parker would later select the works for Viking's Portable F. Scott Fitzgerald.) At the same time, Parker began to drink heavily and her marriage to Eddie Parker (who was also an alcoholic) deteriorated. She became depressed and found it difficult to write material that pleased her. In 1922 Dorothy Parker had an affair with the emerging playwright Charles MacArthur, who it turned out was having multiple affairs with other women. Parker found herself pregnant with MacArthur's child and subsequently had an abortion. Shortly after, she first attempted suicide by slitting her wrists. This pattern of depression, affairs, suicide attempts and recovery would continue throughout Parker's life, though she still maintained high popularity and a steady workload.
In 1926 Dorothy published a collection of her poems, Enough Rope which was well received by the public and critics alike. This collection included Resume, One Perfect Rose and the still-famous News Item in which Parker quipped, "Men seldom make passes/At girls who wear glasses". In the next few years, she signed on to review books for The New Yorker, a position she attained through friends from the now disbanded Round Table. She signed her columns "Constant Reader" and demonstrated yet again her sweet delivery of biting sarcasm and incisive wit. In a review of A.A. Milne's The House at Pooh Corner Parker remarked "that marks the first place in The House at Pooh Corner at which Tonstant Weader Fwowed up."
It was also during this time period, as "Constant Reader", that many major events in Dorothy Parker's life and career took place. In 1927 Parker became more vocal in her socio-political opinions and she joined in the protest against the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti. (Parker was ultimately arrested and released). She eventually divorced Eddie Parker in 1928 and in 1929 Dorothy Parker won her first major literary award. Parker's short story "Big Blonde", which told the all too real tale of an aging party girl, won the O. Henry Memorial Prize for best short story.
Over the next decade Parker was busy writing for the stage and screen. She worked with MGM and Paramount as well as for film legends Cecil B. DeMille and Irving Thalberg. Parker wrote and collaborated on many screenplays, dialogues and even popular lyrics of that time. She maintained her journalistic connections by doing freelance work for past employers and other magazines such as Harper's Bazaar and Cosmopolitan. In 1933 she met Alan Campbell, a young Broadway actor who shared Dorothy's sense of humor and interests. Campbell, eleven years her junior, shared her Jewish/Scottish heritage and was an avid fan of Parker's writing. Despite rumors that Campbell was bisexual, the two were married the following year. The couple headed to Hollywood where they teamed up to write dialogue and storylines for various film scripts. The most popular was undoubtedly A Star Is Born and their screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award. While Parker contributed to countless stage and film productions, her only film appearance is in Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur, where she is featured in a short scene with Hitchcock.
Parker's political causes gradually became more a focus of her life. She declared she was a Communist and helped to found not only the Screen Actors Guild but also the Anti-Nazi League. The Spanish Civil war was one of her most passionate interests, she wrote and spoke out in support of the Spanish Loyalists.
In 1944, Viking published The Portable Dorothy Parker, which received mixed reviews. The book was a relative commercial success, but perhaps due to the world climate, Parker's work was more harshly judged by critics as being shallow and dull. In the years that followed, Parker struggled with depression and alcoholism. In 1947 Campbell and Parker divorced, but would later remarry. By 1949, Parker had been blacklisted for her political associations and eventually pleaded the First Amendment in hearings when she was asked if she were a Communist.
The events in both her personal and professional life began to take their toll on Parker, as she slipped further into depression. She found writing increasingly difficult and was rarely pleased with the projects she did complete. Work was scarce, but by the mid-fifties, things took a slight turn upwards as A Star Is Born was remade, starring Judy Garland. Overall, however, it seemed as if Dorothy Parker's days of being a famous and admired wit were over. She had published several collections of poetry and short stories, in addition to her work in magazines and in Hollywood, but none seemed to match the excitement and interest that Parker attracted in her first years in New York.
In later years, Parker returned to writing book reviews for Esquire, echoing her earlier work at Vanity Fair. She reviewed 208 books over the course of six years. Parker's reviews for Esquire were just as acerbic and clever as her previous columns as "Constant Reader" even if more curmudgeonly so. (It is interesting to note that in her review of Kerouac's The Subterraneans, Parker gives her opinion of the Beat Generation: "I think as perhaps you have discerned, that if Mr. Kerouac and his followers did not think of themselves as so glorious, as intellectual as all hell and very Christlike, I should not be in such a bad humor.")
After many years of moving back and forth from Hollywood to New York, Dorothy returned to the city of her youth a final time in 1963, and moved into the Hotel Volney. This same year she found Alan Campbell dead of an apparent overdose. She completed a few last projects, publishing her last work in November 1964. Bitter with age and mostly blind, she is often reported to have agreed with the assessment that she had outlived her usefulness. Most of her contemporaries and friends had died years earlier, and it is ironic that a woman so drawn to pessimism, who had attempted suicide at least four times, lived into her seventies.
Dorothy Parker died of a heart attack on June 7, 1967 in her room at the Hotel Volney. She willed her remaining estate to Martin Luther King Jr. and her cremated remains were eventually buried at the NAACP headquarters in Baltimore.
Ayn Rand, author of the classic novels Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead and founder of the Objectivist movement, was born Alice Rosenbaum in Saint Petersburg, Russia in 1905. Her genius and love of literature manifested itself early in her childhood -- at age six she taught herself to read, and at age nine decided that she wanted to dedicate her career to writing. She was drawn to authors such as Walter Scott and Victor Hugo.
During her adolescence another influence became clear in her life -- the Bolshevik Revolution and the victory of the Communist Party over Russia. The collectivist culture in the newly formed U.S.S.R. was counter to everything that Rand believed in. In the literature that she loved, Rand read about heroic figures and self-made men; now she was surrounded by those who she would later describe in her novels as "looters" and "moochers". With the nationalization of her father's pharmacy, a symbol of all he had worked for to provide for himself and his family, Rand and her family were plunged into poverty, bordering on the brink of starvation.
The Communist Party continued to erode the freedoms and pleasures that Rand held dear. After she graduated from the University of Petrograd with a degree in history and philosophy, she saw the disintegration of free inquiry and independent thought as the University was taken over. Faced with this sad state of affairs, Rand began to admire the capitalistic society and rugged individuality idealized in the United States. In 1925, Rand obtained permission to visit relatives in the U.S. and never returned to Russia.
In America Rand's luck began to change. Upon arriving in Hollywood to pursue a career as a screenwriter, she was found by Cecil B. DeMille and offered a job as an extra, and then a script reader. After a few years Rand's writing career began to take off. She sold several scripts and screenplays, and although her autobiographical novel We the Living went unpublished, The Fountainhead became a bestseller in 1945. She completed Atlas Shrugged in 1957. These two novels detailed her philosophical views through the heroic characters that she had always loved. Afterwards, she directed all of her efforts towards this philosophy, which she termed Objectivism, writing and lecturing on it until she died in 1982.
Rand described her philosophy as "the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute." When asked if she could present the essence of Objectivism while standing on one foot, she replied that metaphysically, Objectivism believes in objective reality. Epistemologically, it believes in reason. Ethically, it believes in self-interest, and politically, it believes in capitalism. The influence of her early struggles with the Communist takeover is evident in her philosophical ideas. Rand strongly believed in the ideal of the self-made man. She believed that every man and woman must work for their own self-interest, never attempting to gain from the work of others or work for others' gain. Reason and logic are paramount in Objectivist philosophy, and throughout her life Rand denounced mysticism, spirituality, and feeling instead of thinking. With this combination of rationality and honesty, Rand believed, humanity is capable of leading happy and productive lives. As John Galt states in Atlas Shrugged, "I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine".
Zora Neale Hurston began her writing career in the mid 1920's during the Harlem Renaissance but did not publish her first novel until the 1930s at the encouragement of other Harlem Renaissance writers. Much like Janie, her character in 'Their Eyes Were Watching God', Hurston did not receive the recognition she deserved during her life. And in fact many of her writings were lost until the early 1990s when Alice Walker began researching the long lost author and her works. During the Harlem Renaissance women writers were not as well known as the male writers mostly because they were still at this time not being recognized as human beings, let alone educated people with something to say. Hurston touches upon this in 'Their Eyes Were Watching God'. Hurston was often criticized for not being political enough and for portraying her characters as they were in real life and not how white people stereotyped them. Hurston was very outspoken and insisted upon writing about life as she knew it. This includes writing her dialogue as it sounds, allowing the reader to understand that black people have a language of their very own which is distinct and still alive today.
As Nanny holds Janie she tells her of the only life she knows where "de white man is the ruler of everyting ... we don't know nothin' but what we see." Even though the blacks are free, in there eyes the power still lies with the white man, for it is he who monopolizes government and business, who has the power in legislation and who has far greater access to higher and better education. Imagine an African American grandmother in 2002 explaining her views of life to her granddaughter. Her main focus would be the empowerment of the African American woman in society, the workplace, and in marriage. She would encourage her granddaughter to stand up and be viewed as equal to or better than any man despite his race or nationality. She would speak of a multicultural society where a countless number of African Americans continue to succeed in a country full of opportunities. Nanny does not see such promises on the horizon for herself or Janie. Her goal is to see Janie married not for love or for happiness but for safety and security; Nanny asserts "Mah daily prayer now is tuh let dese golden moments rolls on a few days longer till Ah see you safe in life."
In Janie's society the chain of command is such that it forbids opportunity for black women, where they are put of the same level with an animal bred for working: "De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see." Nanny explains the chain of command: the white man, to the black man, to the black woman/mule. In her society the woman's place is in the home, cooking and cleaning. Janie's second husband publicly affirms this when he is unanimously elected mayor of Eatonville and Janie is asked to give a speech as the wife of the new mayor. "Mah wife don't know nothin' 'bout no speech-makin' ... She's uh woman and her place is in de home." Unlike today this comment does not create a disturbance but is accepted as proper and customary. In today's society a position such as the Mayor or President's wife creates the obligation to speak at public engagements. Hillary Clinton went on her own tour speaking at different places across the United States and around the world. Joe Starks would never have such a thing, "Somebody got to think for women and chillun and chickens and cows ... sho don't think none theirselves." Joe is notorious for comments that in today's society have the potential for getting him sued. Yet when placed in the time period just after slavery, such comments were not thought twice about.
The "porch" also plays a great role in the setting of this novel. It is viewed as the hierarchy of their society. Where the elite sit and place judgment upon all that dare to pass by: "They made burning statements with questions, and killing tools out of laughs." It was where their thoughts of the day and its occurrences came alive." Because they were not able to participate audibly at their jobs they saved it all for the porch. Today our jobs are another place to express our opinion, welcome or not. We are not placed in a circumstance where we, at some time or another do not have the opportunity to put in our two-sense. The porch is a place for them to become human again. "So the skins felt powerful and human. They passed nations through their mouths."
If it were not for the unique timing and circumstances of this novel, its powerful statements and character discoveries could not take place. Put in another time era other than the window of time between he end of slavery and the beginning of black civil rights and women liberation would not give it justice. Taking it out of its setting would result in a novel not as moving and as powerful as Zora Neale Hurston had intended, thus robbing it of its beauty and strength.
Gertrude's first taste of fame would come with the publication of "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas" in 1933. It became a best seller in America and turned her into an instant celebrity. The Atlantic Monthly did a serialization of the book which got wide readership. Checks began pouring in giving her more money than she had ever known before.
"I love being rich ... not as yet so awful rich but with prospects, it makes me all cheery inside..."
Gertrude resisted going to America on a lecture tour since she did not know if she would be well received after 30 years absence, but on October 24, 1934 she and Alice arrived in New York aboard the S.S. Champlain. The crowds were enthusiastic, and the press welcomed her with open arms. The NY Times building announced her arrival in tickertape lights. One headline read: "Gerty Gerty Stein is Back Home Home Back".
They would cross the nation doing more than 40 appearances, and visit old friends and make new ones along the way ... Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, Paul Bowles, Sherwood Anderson, Thorton Wilder, Charlie Chaplin, and many more. Commenting on the couple someone remarked, "a large lady firmly dressed in a shirt-waist and skirt and jacket, and a smaller lady in something dark with a gray astrakhan toque ... slightly suggestive of a battleship and a cruiser."