Taylor Mead, actor, Beat poet, performance artist, queer, died in Colorado on May 9th. Maybe in Denver, maybe not. Probably of a massive stroke. He had planned to return to New York where he had spent a flaming, fabulous youth. He was 88. (more…)
Whenever a former head of state dies, the revisionist history begins. It began with startling immediacy after Margaret Thatcherâ€™s passing on April 8. The 87-year-old former Prime Minister was the longest serving PM of the 20th century and the first and only woman elected PM in the nation with the longest-serving female monarch in the world. She died from a stroke after having suffered from dementia for years as chronicled in John Campbellâ€™s book, The Iron Lady: Margaret Thatcher, from Grocerâ€™s Daughter to Prime MinisterÂ (and portrayed with Oscar-winning sincerity by Meryl Streep in the film version). (more…)
Award-winning novelist and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala died April 3 in New York from complications of pulmonary disease. She was 85. (more…)
American ex-pat, writer, and criticÂ Donald Richie, author of the memoirÂ The Japan Journals, 1947-2004Â and The Japanese Film: Art and Industry,Â an expansiveÂ English-language book on Japanese movies co-writtenÂ withÂ critic Joseph L. Anderson,Â died on Tuesday, FebruaryÂ 19th, 2013 in Toyko. He was 88. (more…)
It had been many years since I had heard the name Julia Penelope. Yet there was a time when her name was as common for me as those of Adrienne Rich, Mary Daly, Audre Lorde, Andrea Dworkin–lesbian theorists whose essays on lesbian-feminist theory helped mold my young lesbian mind into revolutionary lesbian thought and ideas. Thus when I learned that she had died on Jan. 19 at the age of 71, I was saddenedâ€“as much by her death as by the fact I hadnâ€™t thought of her in years. I went down to my library to pull some of her books from the shelf and found that each of them was heavily underlined, with notes in the margins. (more…)
Some people imprint you for life. Gerda Lerner was one of those people. As 2013 dawns, Womenâ€™s Studies and Womenâ€™s History are standard, credible, degree-producing disciplines. But when I was in college, Gerda Lerner was an almost mythic creature, doing something that no one else had done before: She was teachingÂ womenâ€™s history. And at one of the premier colleges in the country, Sarah Lawrence, not someoneâ€™s living room in a little private salon. (more…)
Poet, writer, and activist William Brandon Lacy Campos, author of the poetry collectionÂ It Ain’t Truth If It Doesn’t HurtÂ and contributor to the anthologyÂ From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction, died on Friday night in his apartment in New York, New York. He was 35. Â Cause of deathÂ is currently unknown. (more…)
The French writer Tereska TorrĂ¨s, who was best known for herÂ controversial pulp novel Womenâ€™s Barracks, died on Thursday in her home in Paris. SheÂ was 92.
TorrĂ¨sÂ wrote 16 books in all, both novels andÂ memoirs. Her last book, published earlier this year, was Mission SecrĂ¨te (Tallandier), aÂ memoirÂ of detailing her campaign to “help the ‘black Jews’ of Ethiopia to emigrate to Israel.”
The NY Times reports:
Though she wrote more than a dozen novels and several memoirs, Ms. TorrĂ¨s remained inadvertently best known for â€śWomenâ€™s Barracks,â€ť published in the United States in 1950 as a paperback original.
The book is a fictionalized account of the authorâ€™s wartime service in London with the womenâ€™s division of the Free French forces. Though its sexual scenes appear tame to 21st-century eyes, the authorâ€™s forthright depiction of the liaisons of the women in her unit with male resistance members â€” and with one another â€” scandalized midcentury America.
Originally published by Gold Medal Books, â€śWomenâ€™s Barracksâ€ť has sold four million copies in the United States and has been translated into more than a dozen languages. It was reprinted in 2005 by the Feminist Press in its Femmes Fatales series, which features pulp, noir and mystery novels by women of the 1930s, â€™40s and â€™50s.
TorrĂ¨s’ novel wasÂ condemned in 1952 by the U.S House Select Committee on Current Pornographic Materials. TheÂ CommitteeÂ found the bookÂ offensiveÂ and lurid.
Ms. TorrĂ¨s, who was married for many years to the American journalist and writer Meyer Levin, stated in interviews that she wasÂ disappointedÂ at what she viewed as theÂ culturalÂ ”fascination with the novelâ€™s scenes of erotic love between women at the expense of all else.”
In an interview with the The Independent in 2007, TorrĂ¨s stated, “I look on the Internet and I learn that I am the literary queen of the lesbians, the person who wrote the first lesbian, erotic pulp novel. I hate it. I hate it. If you look at Women’s Barracks, there are five main characters. Only one and a half of them can be considered a lesbian.”
Tereska was born in Paris as Tereska Szwarc in 1920, the daughter of Marek and Guina Szwarc. Her father, Marek,Â was a noted painter and sculptor and her mother, Guina,Â was aÂ novelistÂ and poet.
A warÂ heroine, the powerful accounts ofÂ TorrĂ¨s’Â lifeÂ supersededÂ many of theÂ narrative arcs found in her ficition.
TheÂ IndependentÂ reports:
In June 1940, Tereska, then aged 19, travelled through Spain and Portugal to join the small group of men and women who answered Charles de Gaulle’s appeal to continue the fight against the Nazis from London. She said she did not hear de Gaulle’s celebrated BBC radio broadcast and had never heard of this “obscure colonel”. But she decided that she must go to London as soon as a friend told her about his appeal because of her “shame” at Marshall Philippe PĂ©tain’s surrender to the Germans.
She was enrolled into the women’s section of the Free French forces, originally known, as she delighted in pointing out, as the “corps feminin” [female body]. Her first novel, Le sable et l’Ă©cume, begun when she was 17, was published in 1946. The book was a critical success but brought in little money. Hence the decision to write Women’s Barracks, which was translated into English by Levin and sold to an American publisher of pulp novels. TorrĂ¨s refused for more than half a century to allow it to be published in French because, she said, it gave the “wrong impression” of what the Free French forces were doing in London.
In 2005, the website Salon interviewedÂ TorrĂ¨sÂ about theÂ popularity ofÂ Womenâ€™s Barracks.Â TorrĂ¨s stated:
French literature is full of sexual description â€” Flaubert and Proust and everything. I felt I was extremely tame! The book spoke very delicately about the few matters of sexual encounters. But so what? I hadnâ€™t invented anything â€” thatâ€™s the way women lived during the war in London. Generally in London the atmosphere in the war was very free, because there was a feeling that every day could be the last. People later thought it was so shocking.
(Image via Babelio.com)
Filmmaker, photographer, playwright, and philanthropist Arch Brown died of natural causes at his home in Palm Springs, California, on September 3, 2012. He was 76 years old. (more…)
The first time I saw Bill Brent in person he was in Chicago for the Book Expo of America. He came down to my neighborhood to a little coffeehouse around the corner to eat cake and talk. We hit it off instantly. I didnâ€™t think, then, about how rare that sort of ease can be, and I certainly didnâ€™t think, â€śIâ€™m going to work for that man someday,â€ť or â€śI have finally met my mentor.â€ť I thought, â€śnice guy! Weâ€™ll stay in touch.â€ť And we did. (more…)