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October 02 , 2007

Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin

Writers Running Wild in the Twenties


In her exuberant new work, BOBBED HAIR AND BATHTUB GIN, Marion Meade presents a portrait of four extraordinary writers – Dorothy Parker, Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Edna Ferber – whose loves, lives, and literary endeavors embodied the spirit of the 1920s.
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NATHANAEL WEST—novelist, screenwriter, playwright, devoted outdoorsman—was one of the most gifted and original writers of his generation, a comic artist whose insight into the brutalities of modern life proved prophetic. He is famous for two masterpieces, Miss Lonelyhearts (1933) and The Day of the Locust (1939).…

Capturing the jazz rhythms and desperate gaiety that defined the era, Meade gives us Parker, Fitzgerald, Millay, and Ferber, traces the intersections of their lives, and describes the men (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edmund Wilson, Harold Ross, and Robert Benchley) who influenced them, loved them, and sometimes betrayed them. Here are the social and literary triumphs (Parker's Round Table witticisms appeared almost daily in the newspapers and Ferber and Millay won Pulitzer Prizes) and inevitably the penances each paid: crumbled love affairs, abortions, depression, lost beauty, nervous breakdowns, and finally, overdoses and even madness.

These literary heroines did what they wanted, said what they thought, living wholly in the moment. They kicked open the door for twentieth-century women writers and set a new model for every woman trying to juggle the serious issues of economic independence, political power, and sexual freedom. Meade recreates the excitement, romance, and promise of the 1920s, a decade celebrated for cultural innovation – the birth of jazz, the beginning of modernism – and social and sexual liberation, bringing to light, as well, the anxiety and despair that lurked beneath the nonstop partying and outrageous behavior.

A vibrant mixture of literary scholarship, social history, and scandal, BOBBED HAIR AND BATHTUB GIN is a rich evocation of a period that will forever intrigue and captivate us.

From the Hardcover edition.
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