In her exuberant new work, BOBBED HAIR AND BATHTUB GIN, Marion Meade presents a portrait of four extraordinary writers--Dorothy Parker, Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Edna Ferber--whose loves, lives, and literary endeavors embodied the spirit of the 1920s.
Capturing the jazz rhythms and desperate gaiety that defined the era, Meade gives us Parker, Fitzgerald, Millay, and Ferber, traces the intersections of their lives, and describes the men (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edmund Wilson, Harold Ross, and Robert Benchley) who influenced them, loved them, and sometimes betrayed them. Here are the social and literary triumphs (Parker's Round Table witticisms appeared almost daily in the newspapers and Ferber and Millay won Pulitzer Prizes) and inevitably the penances each paid: crumbled love affairs, abortions, depression, lost beauty, nervous breakdowns, and finally, overdoses and even madness.
These literary heroines did what they wanted, said what they thought, living wholly in the moment. They kicked open the door for twentieth-century women writers and set a new model for every woman trying to juggle the serious issues of economic independence, political power, and sexual freedom. Meade recreates the excitement, romance, and promise of the 1920s, a decade celebrated for cultural innovation--the birth of jazz, the beginning of modernism--and social and sexual liberation, bringing to light, as well, the anxiety and despair that lurked beneath the nonstop partying and outrageous behavior.
A vibrant mixture of literary scholarship, social history, and scandal, BOBBED HAIR AND BATHTUB GIN is a rich evocation of a period that will forever intrigue and captivate us.
This light, engaging book spends the years from 1920 to 1930 with Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker and Edna Ferber. Without directly tying them together by any theme (other than that they were all "blessed with the gift of laughter"), Meade moves easily among the women, bringing to life four very different individuals and the worlds they moved in, although Ferber suffers somewhat from being surrounded by more colorful contemporaries. Parker, appropriately enough, is introduced with the words "t couldn't be worse" (she was being canned by Vanity Fair) while Millay is evoked with the offhand observation, "leeping with the boy from Vanity Fair was probably a bad idea. But Vincent did it anyway." The emphasis is on the personalities and personal lives of the women, but Meade (Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?) fairly seamlessly weaves professional ambitions, successes and frustrations into their stories. (It's also fascinating to be reminded that both Ferber and Millay, who could not have been more different in writing style or personality, both enjoyed a good deal of commercial success.) Serious students of the Roaring '20s or of the writers may not learn anything new here; they may also find the interior monologue of the narrative ("Bunny, poor sweet Bunny, so na ve about the opposite sex") grating. And the story stops, rather than ends, in 1930. But for the curious nonexpert, the gossipy, personal tone makes for an enjoyable and informative read. 2 photo inserts not seen by PW.