Tuesday, March 13, 2007

More about Rosie Thomas

Also in today's blog - Germaine Greer biography.

To continue from yesterday, Rosie Thomas's fourth novel, Sunrise, was winner of the 1985 Romantic Novel of the Year Award.

On 6 May that year, I wrote to her. "Probably not many of your fans know yet about The White Dove; but as I am also a writer who, being sequestered on the edge of the Ebro delta, reads The Bookseller eagerly for news of the London book world, I was delighted to learn from Maggie Pringle's column that Sunrise is to be followed by a longer novel.

A letter today from the secretary of the Romantic Novelists' Association brings the news that Sunrise has won the Major Award. What an excellent choice. I thought it a splendid book from its gripping opening scene to your skilful handling of the relationship between Harry and Laura. My heart rather ached for nice Jamie, left adrift at the end. However I have a theory that books with untied-up endings linger in the mind longer. Gone With The Wind is a classic example."

The letter rambled on for a page and I sent it via Rosie Thomas's agent,
Caradoc King
of A P Watt, [see photo] unaware that he was then her husband.

Rosie Thomas sent a charming reply to my fan letter which I can't quote without her permission, and so far no one at Curtis Brown, her present literary agency, has responded to my request for her email address. They have revealed that she is out of the country and planning a website.

Will post my thoughts on Iris and Ruby tomorrow.

Germaine Greer biography

Attracted by a photo of Germain Greer on the jacket, I borrowed Untamed Shrew by Christine Wallace, the first biography of "one of the most influential and controversial figures of her day, the woman whose book The Female Eunuch defined feminism for a generation." It was first published by Pan Macmillan Australia in 1997 and by Richard Cohen Books in the UK in 1999.

In the foreword, the author, also an Australian, writes, "Greer opposed this book from the outset, and went to some lengths to sabotage what was always an honest and well-intentioned project. Her attack included personal threats and vilification, and the warning off of sources by letter, in print and through speeches. This was part of her long-expressed hostility towards literary biography, in particular that concerned with living writers."

At Amazon.com I found the following comments on the book.

"Germaine Greer didn't want this book to be written. Indeed, she described its author, an Australian journalist with a background in parliamentary reporting, as an "amoeba," a "dung-beetle," and a "brain-dead hack." Greer's loss, however, is a reader's gain. This profile of the nonfeminist's feminist is an admirable attempt to analyze Greer's celebrity, and the sales of The Female Eunuch, as a paradigm of postwar media success: "Take a great title, arresting cover artwork, a promotable, quotable author, add sex...." Greer's life makes a compelling story because, like so many professional polemicists, she has never been inhibited by fact, logic, or consistency. Christine Wallace's efforts to unearth the successive layers of Greer's myth reveal her as a young nonfeminist who initially dismissed her agent's suggestion for a book on the status of women; a sexual libertarian who attacked her Cambridge women's college for hiring a transsexual; and a trained scholar who subsequently declared all women academics hopelessly neurotic--only to return to the ivory tower at financially expedient intervals."
"In this unauthorized biography, Australian journalist Wallace relentlessly stalks Germaine Greer, ultimately finding few redeeming intellectual, creative or social attributes in her subject. Wallace starts out with an apparently even-tempered investigation of Greer's upbringing in 1950s Australia, her early career as actress-cum-journalist and her completion of a doctorate in English literature at Cambridge, leading to Greer's explosion into celebrity in 1970 with The Female Eunuch, a book Wallace calls a testament to "hegemonic heterosexuality." Although the bestseller made Greer synonymous with women's liberation, Wallace argues that Greer was an opportunist who took advantage of a historical moment to feather her own nest."

Reader from Malta irked by Brayfield's view

Yesterday Julie, a reader from Malta, hit one of the links I gave, then hit the comment button to write : "I just found Celia Brayfield's article about Jane Austen absolutely ridiculous. It's hardly Jane's fault if her books are constantly being adapted for the screen, is it? I think that instead of blaming Austen, Ms. Brayfield ought to blame screenwriters for failing to come up with their own plots and ideas as well as TV channels for taking the safe option and not opting for original drama if she's got a problem with too many Jane Austen movies. It's not Jane Austen's fault though if women writers aren't taken seriously by critics but rather it's the publishers' fault for always seeking to pigeonhole female authors."

Julie will be pleased to hear that, in today's issue of The Times, columnist Libby Purves disagrees with Brayfield. Her piece starts, "A backlash is a healthy thing, if only because it provokes a sharper defence of whatever is being lashed out at. Celia Brayfield’s attack on Jane Austen here yesterday struck some amusing chords — yes, many of us are bonneted-out and do not hunger for more films full of luminous Hollywood divas and chaps in breeches. Yes, there is only so much sprigged muslin one can take."


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