Writing About Writers
Nine relationships between famous writers examined for more than gossip.
Now comes Scottish literary journalist Leslie McDowell’s Between the Sheets: Nine 20th Century Women Writers and Their Famous Literary Partnerships (Overlook), which explores the relationships between Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry; H.D. and Ezra Pound; Rebecca West and H.G. Wells; Jean Rhys and Ford Madox Ford; Anais Nin and Henry Miller; Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre; Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway; Elizabeth Smart and George Barker; and Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.
Of course, what this nonet has in common are they were reputedly damaging to women (e.g., Sylvia Plath). McDowell argues that whatever the personal emotional costs, all these women paid them in pursuit of their artistic goals and ambitions. As McDowell claims, They made Faustian pacts with their male literary partners that cost them a great deal, but which also contributed to their status as iconic writers.
Considering the parties involved, this investigation, which limns the journals, diaries, and letters, rises above mere literary gossip to provide some compelling snapshots of creative relationships, or at least relationships between creative peoplewhich to some people is more interesting than TMZ or Access Hollywood, one would hope.