In this no-holds-barred memoir with a foreword by Elizabeth Hardwick, the bestselling author of The Group recalls her early life in New York, revealing the genesis of and genius behind her groundbreaking fiction
Mary McCarthy is a married twenty-four-year-old Communist and critic when this memoir begins. She’s disciplined, dedicated, and sexually experimental: At one point she realizes that in twenty-four hours she “had slept with three different men.” But she believes in the institution of marriage. Over the course of three years, she will have had two husbands, the second being the esteemed, much older critic Edmund Wilson. It is Wilson who becomes McCarthy’s mentor and muse, urging her to try her hand at fiction.
McCarthy’s powers of observation are on witty display here, as the seventy-something writer recalls events that took place half a century earlier. Her eye for the revealing detail will be recognized by readers of her novels as she describes marching in May Day parades, attending parties for the Scottsboro Boys, and witnessing firsthand the American left wing’s response to the Moscow trials and the Spanish Civil War.
Picking up where How I Grew left off and unfinished at the time of her death in 1989, Intellectual Memoirs is a vivid snapshot of a distinctive place and time—New York in the late 1930s—and the forces that shaped Mary McCarthy’s life as a woman and a writer.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Mary McCarthy including rare images from the author’s estate.
By the end of the first paragraph of this brief companion to her memoir How I Grew , McCarthy (1912-1989) has made clear the centers of her young life: love and work. At a May Day parade in New York City, she is a 24-year-old Communist and married woman. Both will change soon: she will become involved with the ``fair young man'' walking with her who ``looked like Fred MacMurray,'' and she will become a Trotskyite. As in her Memories of a Catholic Girlhood , drivenness and a sense of inevitability here possess McCarthy; as her close friend Hardwick ( Sleepless Nights ) writes in the introduction, there was ``a certain Jesuitical aspect to her moral life . . . habits, prejudices, moments, even fleeting ones, had to be accounted for, looked at, and written in the ledger.'' As a young writer, McCarthy produced a prodigious number of reviews for magazines like Partisan Review and the Nation . Her love life was equally active: at one point she ``realized . . . that in twenty-foursic hours she had slept with three different men.'' Yet she believed in marriage, and in the space of the memoir's three years, she wed twice, the latter time to critic Edmund Wilson, 16 years her senior and the man who egged her on to try ``imaginative writing.'' As the memoir moves through discussions of Stalinism and Trotskyism, the Moscow trials, the founding of the Partisan Review --and detailed descriptions of the furniture in her apartments--we watch an important mind forming.