Intellectual Memoirs: New York, 1936-1938

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Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992 - Biography & Autobiography - 114 pages
2 Reviews
Bursting with the vitality both of McCarthy's personality and of her times, this work reveals the autobiographical impulse behind much of her most popular work. It reveals the checkered beginnings of her literary career, including a biting series in the Nation excoriating her fellow critics.

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Intellectual memoirs: New York, 1936-1938

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In this volume of her memoirs, McCarthy vividly recalls her early years in New York before she began writing novels and stories. At that time, she wrote reviews for the Nation and the New Republic ... Read full review

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Possibly I would have appreciated this book more if I'd read more of McCarthy's other books first; I've read only two of her books before this one, and none of her novels. This was McCarthy's last book, and her friend Elizabeth Hardwick, who wrote the forward, thinks it was originally supposed to be continued. Among other things, it discusses the people and events in her life that made it into her fiction. But it was still fascinating. Part of the book was about McCarthy's first two marriages and her various other friendships and love affairs, but most of it was about exactly what the title would suggest: the intellectual life McCarthy lived in her mid 20s. So we've got the conflict between the Stalinists and Trotskyites (which I think I understand intellectually, but which at a gut level seems about as distant to me as the Dreyfus affair), and left-wing theater (the first performance of "Waiting for Lefty", for example), and coming to grips with Eliot and Joyce, and the founding of Partisan Review. It ended up making me envious. I don't think we have the institutions today that made it possible for that sort of public intellectual to exist. 


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About the author (1992)

Mary McCarthy, 1912 - 1989 Writer and critic Mary McCarthy was born in Seattle, Washington. At the age of six, she was orphaned when both her parents died of influenza. She was brought up in a strict Catholic environment by two sets of wealthy grandparents. She attended Annie Wright Seminary in Tacoma, WA and Vassar College in New York, where she studied literature. She graduated with honors at the age of twenty-one, married her first husband, and moved to New York. McCarthy worked as an editor at Covici Friede Publishers from 1936-37 and Partisan Review from 1937-38. She taught or lectured at Beard College, in Annendale-on-Hudson, New York from 1945-46 and 1986; Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York in 1948; University College, London in 1980; and Vassar College in 1982. She was a theatre critic for the Partisan Review from 1938-62. McCarthy was a member of the American Academy and the National Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1938, she married critic Edmund Wilson, her second husband, with whom she had her only child. McCarthy's seven novels appeared between 1942 and 1979. McCarthy's bestselling novel, "The Group" (1963), was a sexual depiction written about classmates at Vassar and their lives following college. It was made into a movie in 1966. Her first book, "The Company She Keeps" (1972), was a satire about New York intellectuals who search for their identity through psychoanalysis after the failure of marriage. "Birds of America" (1971) focused on a boy and his mother, who refused to accept modern conveniences. "Cannibals and Missionaries" (1979) explored the psychology of terrorism. McCarthy also wrote critical works, travel books and the autobiographical "Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood" (1957). McCarthy received several awards, which included the Edward MacDowell Medal (1982), the National Medal of Literature (1984) and the first Rochester Literary Award (1985). McCarthy also had honorary degrees from six universities. On October 25, 1989, Mary McCarthy died of cancer in New York.

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