Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Five best books about inamoratas & other women

Elizabeth Abbott is a writer and historian with a special interest in women's issues, social justice for all and sugarcane-cutters in particular, the treatment and lives of animals, and the environment. She has a doctorate from McGill University in 19th century history. She is the author of several books, including A History of Marriage, which completes her trilogy about human relationships with A History of Celibacy and A History of Mistresses.

One of Abbott's five best books about inamoratas and other women, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
At Home in the World
by Joyce Maynard (1998)

This tell-almost-all memoir recounts how an 18-year-old print-media starlet became, for a year, the mistress of one of America's most famous and reclusive authors. Joyce Maynard was an adorable though anorexic gamine who subsisted on ice cream and apples; J.D. Salinger was a 53-year-old health fanatic who praised her writing and seduced her. Maynard quit attending Yale, moved into Salinger's austere home and tried to do his bidding. She was a disappointment—at sex and at following his dietary dictates. (She sneaked ice cream.) On a Florida holiday, Salinger ordered her to pack up and go. Written 25 years later, "At Home in the World" makes irresistible reading, but it also sounds like a pained transcription of conversations and quarrels in a deteriorating affair that Salinger quickly regretted but that Maynard cannot let go of.
Read about another book on Abbott's list.

--Marshal Zeringue