Writing Dangerously: Mary McCarthy and Her World

Carol Brightman, Author, Carol Southern, Editor Clarkson N Potter Publishers $30 (714p) ISBN 978-0-517-56400-4
With her seamless interweaving of the social and inner lives of McCarthy (1912-1989), Brightman ( Drawings and Digressions ) makes sense of the contradictory roles her subject played: orphan, child of privilege; Vassar student, loose woman; respected critic, lapsed Catholic; expatriate, bestselling author. On one level, Brightman tells the engrossing story of McCarthy's life: moving from the ``watery city'' of Seattle, her birthplace, to the ``dialectical tournaments'' of 1930s Partisan Review meetings to a ``bad'' seven-year marriage with Edmund Wilson that finally ended in an argument about emptying garbage pails. Threaded through the story and offering insight into McCarthy's behavior are the recurrent themes of duty, opportunism and self-criticism. Brightman's massive research satisfies both in breadth and idiosyncrasy; she quotes from letters, reviews and interviews with McCarthy and others, and she illustrates the broad reach of The Group by citing its mention in Philip Roth's Goodbye, Columbus . Few books capture so well the tyranny of the conscience of the modern Catholic artist: when, at the end of her life, the grande dame of American letters said of her work, ``I still haven't succeeded !'' we can understand why. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1992
Release date: 10/01/1992
Hardcover - 978-0-517-14528-9
Paperback - 516 pages - 978-0-15-600067-3
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