Between the Sheets

Nine 20th Century Women Writers and Their Famous Literary Partnerships

Lesley McDowell - Author

Hardcover | $30.00 | add to cart | view cart
ISBN 9781590202388 | 368 pages | 01 Apr 2010 | Overlook | 9.25 x 6.25in | 18 - AND UP
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From Simone De Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre to Anais Nin and Henry James, the ruinous love affairs of the twentieth century's greatest female writers.

Why did a gifted writer like Sylvia Plath stumble into a marriage that drove her to suicide? Why did Hilda Doolittle want to marry Ezra Pound when she was attracted to women? Why did Simone De Beauvoir pimp for Jean-Paul Sartre? The list of the damages done in each of these sexual relationships between female writers and their male literary partners is long, but each relationship provokes the same question: would these women have become the writers they were without these literary relationship?

Focusing on the diaries, letters, and journals of each woman, Between the Sheets explores nine famous literary liaisons of the twentieth century. Lesley McDowell examines the extent to which each woman was prepared to put artistic ambition before personal happiness, and how dependent on their male writing partners these women felt themselves to be. She probes the consequences of the women's codependence and reveals how in many instances, their partnerships liberated unspoken desires, encouraged artistic innovations, and even shored up literary reputations. Fascinating and innovative, Between the Sheets is an invaluable addition to libraries of literary criticism and feminism.

"McDowell, a literary journalist in Scotland, has culled incredibly juicy details. With so many affairs and broken hearts, the most surprising thing is that anything got written in the last 100 years." - New York Times Book Review

"McDowell has read the biographies, diaries, letters and discussions deeply and questioningly. She raises important questions about how sexual choice relates to any writer's work and how things have changed for women writers." - Ruth Padel, author of Where the Serpent Lives, in The Financial Times

"It is laudatory that McDowell has set herself against the tenor of much of the critical discourse on the price of female talent...overall this is a welcome addition to the lives of writers in love and lust." -The New Republic

"Between the Sheets explores the messy intersection on art, lust, fame, and power. McDowell mines letters and diaries to give us rare insight into the POV of the female halves of some very celebrated literary couples --Suddenly, these feminist-lit figures seem more real and more grand. We feel the love and heartache that drove them to write" - BUST Magazine

"Lesley McDowell's new book, Between the Sheets: Literary Liaisons of Nine 20th-Century Women Writers, ditches some well-worn biographical tropes and sets out to make an interesting point about female authors: that we often think of their love lives as tragic not because they were, but because they're women." - AOL's

"A fresh and revealing look at the mating habits of literary giants. Author Lesley McDowell examines the famously explosive love affairs of great women writers and finds that there was purpose to their passion and method to their madness. Where others see victims, she sees pioneers who were blazing their own literary, emotional, and sexual trails. We feel as if we are meeting Sylvia Plath, Anais Nin, Simone de Beauvoir, and their "sisters" for the very first time." -Deborah Davis, author of Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X and Gilded

"Lesley McDowell's Between the Sheets brings humor as well as empathy to a scrutiny of women writers' love affairs. Her implicit interest is the source of aesthetic passion, and in her study of Katherine Mansfield, Anais Nin, Simone de Beauvoir, Martha Gellhorn, Sylvia Plath and others, she comes to sometimes surprising insights." -Linda Wagner-Martin, author of Sylvia Plath: A Biography and Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald: An American Woman's Story

"McDowell culls her information from diaries, letters, and journals, which, in all, makes for a thorough but accessible reading. The information being imparted is not revelatory, but the subtle, argumentative slant of the text is laudable for its elevation of women commonly stereotyped as victims who lived passive lives in relation to the men they loved. Anyone interested in some crisp, literary gossip should take a look at this book." -Feminist Review

"Critic, novelist and literary journalist McDowell (The Picnic) takes a scholarly but fascinating look at the love lives of women writers, revealing how writers like Anais Nin, Simone de Beauvoir and Sylvia Plath were affected by their romantic liaisons...Would they have become writers without their entanglements with these men? And was success in their art ultimately worth the heartbreak? This stirring account lets their devotees decide." - Publishers Weekly

"McDowell offers an original framework through which to view these often unequal partnerships." - Miami Herald

"Referencing letters and diaries, McDowell does a decent enough job sorting out the sordid details" -- Austin Chronicle

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