James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon

Julie Phillips, Author . St. Martin's $27.95 (469p) ISBN 978-0-312-20385-6

Journalist Phillips has achieved a wonder: an evenhanded, scrupulously documented, objective yet sympathetic portrait of a deliberately elusive personality: Alice Sheldon (1915–1987), who adopted the persona of science fiction writer James Tiptree Jr. Working from Sheldon's (and Tiptree's) few interviews; Sheldon's professional papers, many unpublished; and the papers of Sheldon's writer-explorer-socialite mother, Phillips has crafted an absorbing mélange of several disparate lives besides Sheldon's, each impacting hers like a deadly off-course asteroid. From Sheldon's sad poor-little-rich-girlhood to her sadder suicide (by a prior pact first shooting her blind and bedridden husband), Sheldon, perpetually wishing she'd been born a boy, made what she called "endless makeshift" attempts to express her tormenting creativity as, among others, a debutante, a flamboyant bohemian, a WAC officer, a CIA photoanalyst, and a research scientist before producing Tiptree's "haunting, subversive, many-layered [science] fiction" at 51. Sheldon masked her authorship until 1976, and afterward produced little fiction, feeling that a woman writing as a man could not be convincing. Through all the ironic sorrows of a life Sheldon wished she hadn't had to live as a woman, Phillips steadfastly and elegantly allows one star, bright as the Sirius Sheldon loved, to gleam. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 03/20/2006
Release date: 08/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 545 pages - 978-0-312-42694-1
Open Ebook - 480 pages - 978-1-4668-8911-8
Show other formats
FORMATS
Discover what to read next
TIP SHEET
MORE BOOKS YOU'D LIKE
X
X