Jeannette Walls wrote The Glass Castle to conquer shame about her hardscrabble past, but the metaphor of the Glass Castle is almost universally relatable. It represents the impossible dreams for the future that most of weave for ourselves, the glittering dreams instilled in childhood, a fantastic goal to reach for that we can never quite touch.
Patricia Highsmith wrote The Price of Salt, the novel that was rereleased as Carol decades later, in 1949 while undergoing intense psychoanalysis in an attempt to get herself into “a condition to be married.” Being gay was so socially unacceptable at that time that even a free-thinking, tradition-bucking, iconoclast like Highsmith temporarily bowed to the intense pressure to mold herself into who society thought she was supposed to be.
In 1994-5, Marcia Clark wasn’t just under the immense pressure of the massively scrutinized O. J. Simpson case, she was also a mother going through a divorce. On top of everything, in a trial that was intentionally needling at the depths of the race problem in American, Marcia Clark’s hair really stirred things up as well. Why did Marcia Clark’s hair symbolize so much to us then, and what does it all mean now?
“Please remember me as Juice,’” – O. J. Simpson, June, 1994 On June 17, 1994, O. J. Simpson was at Robert Kardashian’s house with his lawyers, who thought he was minutes away from turning himself into the police. It was a pre-arranged deal that doesn’t happen very often with murder charges, but these were special circumstances. It’s not every day that a someone as famous and widely beloved as O. J. Simpson is suspected of murdering his ex-wife. “Please remember… Read more »
I haven’t seen the film, but I recently read the book version of Diary of a Teenage Girl in a few feverish sessions. It’s a devastating book in many ways, but I wanted it to go on and on. It’s shocking, heartbreaking and absolutely honest. There are some universally relatable things explored in the book, but the reason why it is so empowering and captivating is because it so raw and specific. What’s relatable isn’t necessarily the details but the bravery in the telling. My year of being 15 was very different than Minnie’s, but her story makes me feel less self-conscious about my internal world, both now and then.
I just discovered Richard Wright’s Black Boy pretty recently. It’s not quite a direct memoir (many of the personal facts and anecdotes are fuzzy and were inserted for narrative effect) as it a vivid impression of what it was like to be a young black man in 1920-30ss America. It makes that time period from that perspective alive and present. Reading an evocative account of another person’s experience closes the distance between you. We can never fully know what’s it… Read more »
Pamela Moore wrote Chocolates for Breakfast, an eyebrow raising 1956 novel about lost teenage girls living privileged and depressing lives, when she was only 18. The book was a hit and put the female name Courtney on the map (Courtney Love counts herself among one of the girls named after protagonist Courtney Farrell,) but Pamela never had another hit and killed herself when she was only 27 years old. The popular book had several prints but lay dormant for years… Read more »
Ariel is grand, but you don’t know the tale of the little mermaid until you’ve read Hans Christian Anderson’s version. His decadent and mournful twist on mermaid lore has shaped our imaginations for centuries, and shines a searing light on the pains of growing up, identity crises, and, of course, unrequited love, which can snap an indescribable place in the heart. Cloaking this particular hurt in a macabre mythological tale gets this feeling precisely right, especially if you throw in the problems of bisexuality in an especially unaccepting time.
Entwined in the thick, decadent audacity of Valley of the Dolls, is The Sleep Cure, a seductive nightmare to treat both nerves and weight loss. In the novel Jennifer North, an amalgam of all troubled blonde Hollywood ingenues, signs into a Swiss clinic to sleep off 10 pounds.
There is popular lore that novel Leaving Las Vegas was author John O’Brien’s “suicide note,” and that he killed himself upon learning that his book would be made into a movie. The idea of Leaving Las Vegas being a suicide note unintentionally originated with a letter O’Brien’s sister Erin wrote to Nicolas Cage after John O’Brien’s death, and with a New York Times article that claims his father also called the book his suicide note. It’s an poetic idea, but it seems to oversimplify the life and literary ambitions of John O’Brien.