Book Diary


April 24, 2015

4:00 p.m.: Just got out of the studio. I am in a hotel called Club Quarters across from Rockefeller Center courtesy of NBC.

I was interviewed for about four hours on everything, it seemed. They wanted me to speculate about MM's death, which I did while making clear I did not believe in the murder conspiracy theories. I did, though, want to comment on why such theories persist, and I hope that is included in the program. One documentary focuses on the romances of her life, the other on her death and the events leading up to it. The documentaries air on the Lifetime channel, May 30 and 31. They are sending me dvd copies.

Every time I do one of these documentaries I am reminded of how arduous filming is: the stopping and starting, repeating comments, checking for sound, makeup (my face was dusted to get any shiny spots out). It is a very intense process requiring enormous concentration. As I left, one of the filmmakers said, "You are a star." Of course I am not a star, but I was made to feel like one because everyone was working to make me look and sound good. Lots of compliments. Maybe they meant what they said, but like Marilyn I know it is all part of the routine of keeping the talent happy and confident.

November 17, 2014

Just returned from a week in Texas, working at the Ransom Center in Austin on my biography of William Faulkner, and then giving talks in Huntsville on the Sam Houston State University campus about Dana Andrews and Marilyn Monroe. At SHSU, a student asked me to autograph Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews for her mother because The Best Years of Our Lives was her mother's favorite film. When I signed my book, she said, "Now I'm my mother's favorite daughter." In Dallas I gave a talk about Marilyn Monroe Day by Day at a conference about the 1950s at Texas Christian University. I was part of a panel and was delighted to learn that the moderator was a student of my work. At night I was the guest of Mahala Yates Stripling and her husband for a prime rib dinner at the Forth Worth Club. Mahala is working on a biography of Richard Selzer, and she kindly gave me a draft of his review of AIDS and Its Metaphors. A timely gift since I'm revising the biography of Sontag my wife, Lisa Paddock, and I published in 2000.

October 4, 2014

Just returned from Plymouth, where I gave a talk to students in the publishing program and conferred with my editors at Plymouth University Press, which is going to publish my biography/​memoir of Michael Foot, former Labour Party leader and an important cultural figure about whom I wrote in my biography of his wife, titled To Be A Woman: The Life of Jill Craigie

Next month I'm traveling to Austin, Texas, to work in the Carvel Collins Paper at the Ransom Research Center, for my biography of William Faulkner.

April 6, 2014

Hollywood Legends series, University Press of Mississippi. I'm very excited to announce that there will be a Dan Duryea biography in the series. Coming soon is a reprint of Carol Easton's engaging biography of Sam Goldwyn, and an updated edition of my Marilyn Monroe biography. An audiobook edition of my Dana Andrews biography is about to go into production.

March 20, 2014

Nearing the year 1950 in Walter Brennan's life. He died in 1974.

But I will interrupt writing until Friday. Tomorrow I head off the the University of Mary Washington where I gave that Great Lives talk about Marilyn Monroe. I've been invited to a lecture given by Theresa Fowler, who has written a novel about Zelda Fitzgerald. Then on Wednesday I spent a day at the University of Virginia doing research on William Faulkner. Thursday it's the Virginia Festival of the Book, where I will be part of a panel discussion of biography and then in the afternoon will conduct a four hour seminar on biography.


September 22-26 2013
The weekend got off to a really great start. I spent a day at the Rebecca West conference at NYU. I gave talk about Amy Lowell and West on a panel with Deirdre David discussing her biography of Olivia Manning and Melissa Bradsaw, author of the stunning AMY LOWELL: DIVA POET. And then today I addressed a group of biographers in Cambridge, telling them why I just had to write a biography of Amy Lowell. Tomorrow I will be in Lynn and Swampscott, MA tracking down records of the childhood and youth that Walter Brennan spent there. My biography is part of my New England trilogy that includes Plath and Lowell. Tuesday, it's on to the Massachusetts Historical Society, where I will discuss my late breaking discovery of a lover of Amy Lowell that none of her previous biographers knew existed.

The last two days have been great. I gave a talk at the Massachusetts Historical Society about the recent discovery of letters that reveal an Amy Lowell lover that no previous biographer knew about. Whooppe Pies, an Amy Lowell, favorite were served.

Yesterday I spoke at the Harvard Book Store and signed copies of my book. It was well attended, and I enjoyed meeting members of Lowell's family, one of whom told me that the young Amy's dance card was always full.

2012

On September 17, I drove from Houston to Rockdale (northeast of Austin), where Dana Andrews grew up during World War I. Cell phone reception was poor, but I just kept loading my youtube book trailer and turned on my pocket project. About 20 minutes later, just as I was reading a section about Dana's Baptist minister father, who prayed lugubriously and ended his sermon on the sorry state of the world with the words Oh Lord!, my book trailer loaded and started to play. It was a miracle, I told the audience--one that they would be telling to their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren about the day that Carl Rollyson came to town.

Thanks to Will Swift, who is writing a biography of Pat and Richard Nixon, I was invited to give a public lecture, entitled “Adventures of an Outlaw: A Biographer at Work,” kicking off the Biographer’s Festival on September 29, sponsored by the Columbia County Historical Society at the Dutch Reformed Church in Kinderhook, New York. The interview with the Register-Star (see the link above) is a good summary of my talk.

On December 9 & 10, I enjoyed a weekend devoted to Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews on the Silver Screen Oasis Forum. I answer many very good questions and has an opportunity to add a few details that you won't find in my book. A biographer always has these afterthoughts and discoveries, and I'm grateful to Moira Finnie for giving me the opportunity to talk with so many people interested in Dana Andrews.

2013

On January 22, I spoke at the National Arts Club in Gramercy Park about my biography of Dana Andrews. This was a very special event because Dana's daughter, Susan, joined me and the Club screened Laura, the film that made Dana a star.

On January 24, at Columbia University, myntalk focused on how I wrote the chapter on Laura.

On February 6, I appeared at Left Bank Books in St. Louis to give a talk about my biographies of Dana Andrews, Sylvia Plath, and Martha Gellhorn (a St. Louis native). I was gratified to meet longtime St. Louis residents who still remember Gellhorn and the contributions her family made to the city. I pointed out that three of my subjects were exiles who wanted to engage the world in ambitious ways even as behaving in ways shaped by where they came from.

Other speaking engagements:

February 15: Harvard Bookstore, Cambridge, MA, talk and signing, for American Isis
Diary: 2pm: I'm in the Boston-Cambridge area visiting bookstores. Met my wonderful agent, Colleen Mohyde, at the Porter Square bookstore cafe at 7 am, then she drove me to the Brookline Booksmith, after which I walked to the BU B & N, then to Prudential Center B & N, ending up here at the Harvard Coop. I was given ten copies of American Isis to sign by a clerk who was taught by Plath's impressive high school teacher, Wilbury Crockett. Altogether I signed 30 copies and will sign more tonight at the Harvard Book Store.  9:30 pm: Just got back from the Harvard Bookstore talk and signing.  Good crowd, lots of books signed.  I had one obstreperous response from a man who attacked me for making the Plath Monroe comparison.  But afterwards he came up to me and apologized, saying I handled his outburst very well.  Another person who wanted a book signed said those who objected to my Marilyn Monroe references know nothing about Monroe.  Quite true.  

February 20: Huntington Library, San Marino, CA, noon talk about Hollywood Enigma Also at Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA - (323) 466-3456. 6:30 pm book signing and talk (introduced by Susan Andrews) followed by a screening of Laura. Diary: Feb 21 started yesterday with a wonderful walk in the gardens of the Huntington Library. Talked at noon about Dana Andrews, and I was gratified to meet staff members of the Pasadena Playhouse, where Dana got his start. You won't believe this, but I'm at a Starbucks across the street from the USC campus and the theme from Laura is playing. Rosemary Clooney is singing it  Last night at the Egyptian Theatre I introduce the film joined by Dana's daughter, Susan.  Also present Dana's daughter Kathy and her daughter Abigail.  Lots of book signing and conversation with Beverly Gray, esteemed Roger Corman biographer, and Charles McGraw biographer  Alan Rode. Thanks to Jeff of Larry Edmunds Bookshop for arranging this fantastic night. And thanks to Jeff for those Marilyn Monroe images I will be using for my revised biography of her that will appear as part of the University Press of Mississippi's Hollywood Legends series.

February 23: In Las Vegas at the Far West Popular Culture Association: "Hollywood Legends." I gave a luncheon talk about the ways different ways of becoming a Hollywood star. I think I recruited at least one writer to who want to make a contribution to the University Press of Mississippi series on Hollywood Legends.

February 26: "Marilyn Monroe: "I Was Dreaming the Hardest," at Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I plan to explain why I think there is a strong link to Sylvia Plath. I really enjoyed speaking to an audience of 450 on a cold drizzly night. Probably 600 people would have showed if the weather had been better. Although many in my audience were old enough to have seen Monroe when her films first appeared, there were young people in the audience as well, including a journalism student who interviewed me for a class assignment.

February 28: Philadelphia Atheaneum on Sylvia Plath. A very welcoming audience of perhaps a hundred people. This time I really concentrated on explaining what was new in my biography. Good questions, especially from a Plath scholar. I plan to return to the Athenaeum when my biography of Amy Lowell is published next fall.

March 14: A special event for me because I will be addressing my fellow biographers in the Biography Seminar, which meets at New York University. I'm going to concentrate on the last chapter of American Isis, where I situate my book in the history of Plath biography. I will also point out that the last chapter is my answer to Janet Malcolm—something no reviewer so far has noticed.

The day after: Nice turnout for my talk at the NYU Biography Seminar. What a joy to address a room of biographers and to dwell on how I seized the opportunity to write a biography of Plath and how my book fit into the history of other biographies, including several biographers who were ultimately unwilling to go ahead and write their books.

March 21: In Madison, Wisconsin, for a talk at the Vantage Point Luncheon at the Madison Club and then a talk and signing at A Room of One's Own, for American Isis

March 21: The luncheon talk was well received, with good questions and several books sold. I played a recording of Sylvia reading "Daddy." very powerful. At 6:30 a small but very perceptive gathering of readers at A Room of One's Own in downtown Madison not far for the Capitol.  A beautiful 6000 square foot book store.  Good questions and even more remarkable, almost everyone who came to the talk bought a book.  But the startling development of the night came when an audience member identified himself as someone who had gone to school with Assia Wevill and had a good anecdote to share about her. She radiated sex, he said, which reminded me of one of Sylvia's classmates who said all Ted Hughes had to say was "Hello" and he was seducing you. The idea that Assia deliberately set out to seduce Ted seemed perfectly true to this friend of hers. He described her pointedly sitting across from a distinguished professor of philosophy, a man in his sixties. She just sat there, being Assia, so to speak. He grew visibly agitated, and after a few minutes, he arose, looked at her and shouted, "You bitch!" and left the room.

The next day I spoke with twenty Smith College graduates at the University Club. They had read my book, so I decided to give them a quiz. It was fun and the whole affair was like a graduate seminar. And also had time to do an hour long interview for Wisconsin Public Radio, which will air in May. I will post a link in the Events section of this website.

March 23: Just returned from Madison. Yesterday I did an hour long interview for public radio that will air April 21 and will be available online.  Last event yesterday was at the University Club for a meeting with Smith alums who had read American Isis. Good reception. One reader was a little doubtful about the Isis analogy and wanted to know about how I came up with it. "My wife suggested it," I said.  Another had some qualms about the Marilyn Monroe analogy. And she was amazed that the New York Times reviewer actually wanted to hear more about it. Well, I said, actually I did hold back, figuring rightly that some readers would be annoyed that I had made such a connection at all. In fact, I could have said much more and will when I get around to writing an article about the Marilyn Monroe-Sylvia Plath connection.

March 26: In Boulder, Colorado, book store talk and signing at Boulder Book Store, for American Isis
This was one of the best talks and book signings I have ever done. A responsive book store staff and an attentive audience with good questions. Several Smith College graduates attended.

March 27: In Denver, book store talk and signing at Tattered Cover, for American Isis
The only book store signing where I was given a gift (a beautifully embossed silver book mark with my name and the date of my talk) plus some good coffee. This is a huge, beautiful bookstore, famous and part of my dream come true.

I also did a talk and signing for Old Firehouse Books at the library in Fort Collins, and then I spent a wonderful evening in the hoe o a Smith College graduate addressing a group of 45 Smith College graduates.

April 8: In New York City, talk about Dana Andrews in the Bruno Walter Theater, Lincoln Center
I had a good time yesterday talking about Dana Andrews in the Bruno Walter auditorium of the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts.  An old friend showed up, which is always a special pleasure, and I was introduced by the director of the series, Cheryl Raymond, whose brother was named after Dana.  I've been invited back to talk about my revised biography of Marilyn Monroe, which I expect to be out early next year.

May 19: In New York City, talk about Dana Andrews at John Jay College

Aug 19: Wonderful, sold out talk at The Mount, Edith Wharton's home. I will be returning next year to speak about Amy Lowell.

Aug 25: A small but wonderful event at House of Books in Kent, Connecticut, to kick off my Amy Lowell tour.

Interviews and Appearances

Contact: Rich Wandschneider 541-432-0505; rich@​josephy.org

April 6, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Walter Brennan Days

The Josephy Center will honor long-time Wallowa County rancher and Hollywood actor Walter Brennan with a three-day celebration April 28-30. It kicks off with a showing of “The Westerner,” for which Brennan’s portrayal of Hanging Judge Roy Bean won an Oscar—one of three!—for Best Supporting Actor, on Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. On Friday night Brennan Biographer Carl Rollyson will talk about Brennan and his recently published biography. Books will be for sale and signing. That event is also at 7:00 at the Josephy Center.

Finally, at 2:00 and 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 30, La Grande actor Kevin Cahill will portray Brennan in a one-man play constructed by Rollyson from interviews and writings by the man many will remember as Grandpa McCoy on television. This is the only ticketed event of the celebration; tickets are $5 at the door.

From his arrival in Wallowa County in the 1940s until his passing in 1974, Walter Brennan was an important citizen of Wallowa County. He made movies and TV shows well into his 70s, but also took the time to help run the Lightning Creek Ranch, build a motel and theater in his adopted hometown of Joseph, and play a role in the early development of Chief Joseph Days. Brennan thought there should be a marching band in the Chief Joseph Days Parade, so he formed one, the “Chesnimnus International Marching Band.” Brennan himself served as drum major. In 1969, he served as Grand Marshall.

Brennan also liked to go squirrel hunting with his friend, Roy Daggett, and occasionally brought Hollywood friends to the county. There is a picture of him with Chill Wills in a stagecoach in Joseph. It might have been advertisement for Chief Joseph Days, or maybe for the new theater.

Walter Brennan passed away in 1974, but his son, Mike, two grandchildren, and a few great grandchildren continue to live in Wallowa County. Relatives will be here for the events, and some of their memorabilia of the actor, stuntman, Elks member, Chief Joseph Days supporter, rancher, and motel and movie theater owner will be on display. Other friends and community members who have Brennan material to share are welcome to do so.

The cowboy hat on the famous Norman Rockwell painting of Brennan was his favorite, and the Josephy Center and Brennan family invite the community to dig out favorite old hats and wear them in his honor. We’ll vote on movie night and play night for the best hat, and give away a copy of Rollyson’s book.

Sponsors for the event include The Bank of Eastern Oregon, Umpqua Bank, Community Bank, Mount Joseph Family Foods, and Timberline Realty. Please contact Cheryl or Rich at 503-432-0505, or come by the Josephy Center, 403 N. Main Street in Joseph .

Walter Brennan, Gary Cooper, and Teresa Wright in Pride of the Yankees

I will be talking about the book at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/ Weill Cornell Medical Center 420 East 76th Street, Suite 139, NYC 10021 May 18, 2016 at 2:30 pm

Past Events and Interviews


I gave a keynote address at the William Faulkner Conference in Oxford, Mississippi, July 19-23, 2015

On the way to work in the M. Thomas Inge Faulkner Collection at West Point, the best defended Faulkner collection in the world.

Inside the Faulkner room at West Point

Michael Foot and Jill Craigie

On September 9, 2015 at 7:00 p.m, I gave a talk about A Private Life of Michael Foot at Keats House in Hampstead, not far from where Foot lived, and where I stayed with him while writing a biography of his wife Jill Craigie.


On May 30 & 31, 2015, I appeared on the Lifetime Channel's two documentaries about Marilyn Monroe.

June 4, 2014: Harvard Coop Bookstore (7pm) about the new paperback editions of my Marilyn Monroe and Sylvia Plath biographies

October 8, 2014: New York Presbyterian Hospital about Marilyn Monroe.

Story behind the Story: Carl Rollyson’s American Isis.
Seaman, Donna (author).
FEATURE.
First published January 1, 2013 (Booklist).

Goddess Dreams

When you look at the impressive list of biographies Carl Rollyson has written over the past 25 years or so, you notice that most are about women and that they fall into two categories: writers and actors. What’s the link?

“I think the thing that fuses the writers and Hollywood people I’m interested in is that the writers had a connection with Hollywood, or they had what I would call a Hollywood personality. Writers who project themselves. Like Martha Gellhorn. She came from St. Louis, but in her maturity, she had this almost British accent. She had completely reinvented herself, just like an actress. Susan Sontag, too. She had an aura, an image, a public persona, and she maintained it even through her struggles with cancer, just like a Hollywood figure. Poet Amy Lowell, whom I’m writing about now, had an incredible interest in the theater and the ability to project herself onstage. She lived all of her adult life with a marvelous actress, Ada Russell, who coached her on how to speak in public.”

We spoke with Rollyson via phone, which was like plugging into a generator, he has so much energy. Zealous in his mission to portray “people of destiny,” he revels in every challenge biographers face. When we asked him how he managed to be so prolific, you could hear him smile.

“I have a secret weapon, my wife, Lisa Paddock, who coauthored the Susan Sontag biography. Even when we’re not writing books together, she’s a super editor. Not only does she have a PhD in English; she also has a law degree. As a biographer, I’ve gotten into lots of trouble when working with living figures, so when legal issues come up, I have my at-home attorney as well as editor.”

Rollyson heard the call to biography during the summer of 1980 when he was reading books about Marilyn Monroe in preparation for writing an academic bio-bibliography. An actor before he became a professor, he realized that none of the biographers “had any idea of how acting had shaped Marilyn’s personality, or how she prepared for her roles. They had no vocabulary for how an actress works.” Monroe became the subject of his first biography, and she provided the key to his newest book, American Isis, a biography of the iconic poet Sylvia Plath.

For two decades, Rollyson has been trying to write about Plath, but there are so many Plath books already on the shelf that agents told him to forget it. Instead, he kept searching for a new perspective and he found it in a 1959 entry in Plath’s journal: “Marilyn Monroe appeared to me last night in a dream as a kind of fairy godmother.” Marilyn gives her a manicure and invites Plath to visit her, “promising a new, flowering life.” Plath also writes, “I spoke, almost in tears, of how much she and Arthur Miller meant to us.”

Monroe married playwright Arthur Miller in June 1956, the same month and year Plath married the English poet Ted Hughes. Both couples also spent the summer of 1957 on the same Cape Cod beach. Last year marked the fiftieth anniversary of Monroe’s tragic death (see Lois Banner’s Marilyn, 2012). This year is the fiftieth anniversary of Plath’s infamous suicide. Both women were, in effect, punished for their brilliance. Rollyson observes, “Monroe and Plath are great transitional figures. They lived just before that second wave of the women’s movement, doing things that women 10 years later will feel more comfortable undertaking.”

While movie star Monroe brought her volume of Rilke to the set, Plath, Rollyson observes, “had the sensibility of a great actress.” He also marvels, “Here was a woman who not only wanted to be a great poet; she also wanted to write potboiler fiction for the Ladies’ Home Journal. Like Marilyn, Plath was determined to reach a much, much bigger world.”

I gave a talk about Ted Hughes and biography at the Ted Hughes conference in Sheffield, UK, September 11, 2015. Jonathan Bate's new biography will be part of the discussion. In October, I'll be reviewing Bate's book for the Minneapolis Star Tribune




More Past Events


Selected Works: Click on titles for reviews and photographs

e.g. Fiction, History, Magazine Articles, etc. goes here
Carl Rollyson not only provides an introduction to her essays, novels, plays, films, diaries, and uncollected work published in various periodicals, he now has a lens through which to reevaluate classic texts such as Against Interpretation and On Photography, providing both students and advanced scholars a renewed sense of her importance and impact.
This first biography of Susan Sontag (1933–2004) is now fully revised and updated, providing an even more intimate portrayal of the influential writer’s life and career. The authors base this revision on Sontag’s newly released private correspondence, including emails, and the letters and memoirs of those who knew her best.
Chapters on Marilyn Monroe, Lillian Hellman, Martha Gellhorn, Norman Mailer, Rebecca West, Susan Sontag, Sylvia Plath, Amy Lowell, Michael Foot, Jill Craigie, Dana Andrews, Walter Brennan, and Willam Faulkner.
A Private Life of Michael Foot adopts a no holds barred approach to biography, leaving a political figure stripped bare, and revealing a deeply complex, introverted man for all to see.

The first biography of the prodigiously hard-working actor who embodied the Western ideal
A documentary approach to the life and legend. With details of her childhood, her young adult years, her ascent to superstardom, and the hour by hour moments leading to her tragic early death, this volume supplements—and, in some cases, corrects—the accounts of previous biographies.
A riveting examination of Amy Lowell’s private life and lover, Ada Russell, who did so much to make Lowell’s career possible The startling discovery of a new Amy Lowell lover who perished on the Lusitania. A compelling window into Lowell’s gregarious character. Concise readings of Lowell’s most important poems reveal the depth and range of her erotic imagination. An astute analysis of the way biographers and critics have maligned Lowell as a person and poet.
A revisionist view of the poet, her fellow writers, and their biographers. In this series of essays, beginning with a look at how her own biographers have behaved, I have tried to re-conceive the familiar anecdotes and episodes, circling back again and again to certain incidents and contretemps, as the point of view shifts from one writer to another. As a kind of coda to my quarrel with biographers is an essay, “Remembering Amy Lowell,” in which I assess the varying degrees to which the memoirs of her present a credible person and poet. I have not paused to define in any great detail terms such as Imagism, although I’ve included an essay on the Imagists in an appendix as well as the full texts of the poems discussed in this book. These appendices provide a context for the discussion of Lowell and her contemporaries and serve, I hope, as an inviting introduction to her work.
A biography of the great film noir actor. Here at last is the complete story of a great actor, his difficult struggle to overcome alcoholism while enjoying the accolades of his contemporaries, a successful term as president of the Screen Actors Guild, and the love of family and friends that never deserted him. Based on diaries, letters, home movies, and other documents, this biography explores the mystery of a poor boy from Texas who made his Hollywood dream come true even as he sought a life apart from the limelight and the backbiting of contemporaries jockeying for prizes and prestige. Called “one of nature’s noblemen” by fellow actor Norman Lloyd, Dana Andrews emerges from Hollywood Enigma as an admirable American success story, fighting his inner demons and ultimately winning.
Here, at last, is the true story of Sylvia Plath's last days and her estate's efforts to shape her husband's role in her death and the world's understanding of Plath and her work. Here, too, is a new Sylvia Plath, immersed in popular culture and proto-feminism, presaging the way we live now.I wrote this biography because there were aspects of Sylvia Plath that other biographers have overlooked or misunderstood. But as I wrote I re-read my predecessors. I checked to see how others had handled the same material. I think my practice in doing so is worth mentioning because I have dispensed with a good deal of the boilerplate that most biographers feel compelled to supply. I say little, for example, about the backgrounds of Plath’s parents. I don’t describe much of Smith College or its history. I do very little scene setting. Previous biographers do all this and more, and what strikes me about their work is how distracting all that background is for someone wishing to have a vision of Sylvia Plath, of what she was like and what she stood for. To put it another way, since earlier biographers have done so much to contextualize Plath, I have not wanted to repeat that exercise, as valuable as it can be for the Plath novice. Instead, I have concentrated on the intensity of the person who was Sylvia Plath, restricting my discussion of her writing only to the truly crucial pieces that advance my narrative. I have tried to write a narrative so focused that a reader new to Plath biography may feel some of the exhilaration and despair that marked the poet’s life. I wrote this biography because there were aspects of Sylvia Plath that other biographers have overlooked or misunderstood. But as I wrote I re-read my predecessors. I checked to see how others had handled the same material. I think my practice in doing so is worth mentioning because I have dispensed with a good deal of the boilerplate that most biographers feel compelled to supply. I say little, for example, about the backgrounds of Plath’s parents. I don’t describe much of Smith College or its history. I do very little scene setting. Previous biographers do all this and more, and what strikes me about their work is how distracting all that background is for someone wishing to have a vision of Sylvia Plath, of what she was like and what she stood for. To put it another way, since earlier biographers have done so much to contextualize Plath, I have not wanted to repeat that exercise, as valuable as it can be for the Plath novice. Instead, I have concentrated on the intensity of the person who was Sylvia Plath, restricting my discussion of her writing only to the truly crucial pieces that advance my narrative. I have tried to write a narrative so focused that a reader new to Plath biography may feel some of the exhilaration and despair that marked the poet’s life.
The first biography that truly shows the actress at work.-- Ellen Burstyn A new edition, revised and updated, from University Press of Mississippi. In American popular culture Marilyn Monroe has evolved in stature from Hollywood sex symbol to tragic legend. Most books about Monroe stress the sensational events that surrounded her-this book is the first to deal honestly and critically with Monroe as an actress, evaluating her moves as crucial forces in the shaping of her identity. Through careful examination of her performances, from her small appearances in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve to her memorable roles in Bus Stop, Some Like It Hot, and the The Misfits, the author traces her development from cover girl innocent to an actress devoted to her craft. Based on extensive interviews with many of Monroe's colleagues, close friends, and mentors, this comprehensive, critically balanced study describes her use of Method acting as well as her instruction with Michael Chekhov and, later, the Strasbergs. Carl Rollyson has written a refreshing analysis and appreciation of Marilyn Monroe's enduring and, until now, underestimated gifts as a creative artist.
America's most controversial radical playwright. Through diaries, letters, government files, and interviews Carl Rollyson draws a vital and vibrant portrait of the life, the work, and the legend of Lillian Hellman, America's most controversial radical playwright. Rollyson explores the sources and backgrounds of her best-selling memoirs, the development of her politics, her successful screenwriting career, and her famous appearance before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. He provides entertaining and informative accounts of her feud with Mary McCarthy, her many love affairs and surprising friendships. He also provides a provocative and compelling portrayal of this complex and brilliant woman, who was called everything from a "viper", "a goddam liar" to "an empathetic genius with a highly original and penetrating mind." Near death, Hellman spoke of being blocked; this biography will show what got in her way.
The first biography of Gellhorn, relying on key archival sources and interviews with her friends and associates. Martha Gellhorn died in February 1998, just shy of her 90th birthday. Well before her death, she had become a legend. She reported on wars from Spain in the 1930s to Panama in the 1980s, and her travel books have become classics. Her marriage to Ernest Hemingway and affairs with legendary lovers like H. G. Wells, and her relationship with two presidents, Roosevelt and Kennedy, reflect her campaigns against tyranny and deprivation, and her outrage at the corruption and cruelty of modern governments. This controversial and acclaimed biography portrays a vibrant and troubled woman who never tired of fighting for causes she considered just.
Delves beneath the surface to examine the forces that made Sontag an international icon, exploring her public persona and private passions, including the strategies behind her meteoric rise to fame and her political moves.
The first book to survey the broad range of Sontag's work. Includes a comprehensive glossary of Sontag's extensive allusions to literary figures and ideas.
Twenty-five years of writing about female icons and biography. Female Icons: Marilyn Monroe to Susan Sontag Bits and pieces that resulted not only in a biography of Marilyn Monroe but also in much of the work subsequently done on Lillian Hellman, Martha Gellhorn, Rebecca West, Susan Sontag, and on the nature of biography itself. This book includes New York Sun book reviews dealing with female icons such as Mary Stuart, Mary Wollstonecraft, The Brontës, Marie Curie, Harriet Tubman, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Sylvia Plath.
The standard biography of one of the 20th century's greatest prose stylists.. What is new in this second edition of Carl Rollyson's standard biography? It begins with a portrait that attempts to evoke the living person in all her dimensions. It concludes with an interview with one of her favorite secretaries, Elizabeth Leyshon, who eluded him in the 1990s but provided new insights into her employer's character for this book. The biography's new title emphasizes that Rebecca West was a prophet-one not always appreciated in her own day. As early as 1917, she understood where the world was headed and realized that the revolution in Russia held out false hope. Because she took this view as a socialist, those on the left scorned her as an apostate, whereas she understood that Communism would result in a disaster for the British left. Readers wishing to gauge the range of West's fiction and nonfiction should read Woman as Artist and Thinker, published by iUniverse. Rollyson has read his words anew, sharpening sentences, omitting words and paragraphs-sometimes entire sections-in order to provide a refreshing, more engaging, and spirited account of one of the world's major writers.
The first book to explore the entire corpus of her extraordinary career.
Religion, politics, and the writing of biographies.
Filmmaker, feminist,, wife--a twentieth century woman.
The first literary biography of Norman Mailer, updated and revised
Essays in Biography is a play on words conveying an attempt to explore the nature of biography in pieces about the history of the genre and in portrayals of biographers (Plutarch, Leon Edel, and W. A. Swanberg), literary figures (Lillian Hellman, Jack London), philosophers and critics (Leo Strauss and Hippolyte Taine), political figures (Winston Churchill and Napoleon), and artists (Rembrandt and Rubens).
For those addicted to reading biography, enhancing their pleasure by providing insight (or you might say, the inside word) on how biographies are put together.
Provocative reviews of American subjects, originally appearing in The New York Sun.
A candid and revealing account, by an expert in the minefield of the biographer’s contentious work
A terrific companion for biography writers and lovers.-- James McGrath Morris, editor of the monthly "The Biographer's Craft"