If you write a book about alcohol and male writers, as I did, the one question you’ll be asked more than any other is: what about the women? Are there any alcoholic female writers? And are their stories the same, or different? The answer to the first question is easy. Yes, of course there are, among them such brilliant, restless figures as Jean Rhys, Jean Stafford, Marguerite Duras, Patricia Highsmith, Elizabeth Bishop, Jane Bowles, Anne Sexton, Carson McCullers, Dorothy Parker and Shirley Jackson. Alcoholism is more prevalent in men than women (in 2013, the NHS calculated that 9% of men and 4% of women were alcohol-dependent). Still, there is no shortage of female drinkers; no lack of falling-down afternoons and binges that stretch sweatily into days. Female writers haven’t been immune to the lure of the bottle, nor to getting into the kinds of trouble – the fights and arrests, the humiliating escapades, the slow poisoning of friendships and familial relations – that have dogged their male colleagues. Jean Rhys was briefly in Holloway prison for assault; Elizabeth Bishop more than once drank eau de cologne, having exhausted the possibilities of the liquor cabinet. But are their reasons for drinking different? And how about society’s responses, particularly in the lubricated, tipsy 20th century; the golden age, if one can call it that, of alcohol and the writer? [Read More]
Jill Dawson (The Guardian) on the influences and inspirations behind Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt
Patricia Highsmith was in love many times and with many women – “more times than rats have orgasms”, to use one of her own more disquieting similes. She plundered these objects of her desire extravagantly in her 22 novels and hundreds of short stories. Not one glance, not one feminine gesture or foible of any one of her many girlfriends was ever wasted, but only once – and spectacularly – did she write openly about lesbianism. This was her second novel, Carol, first published as The Price of Salt in 1952, with Highsmith using the pseudonym Claire Morgan, and now adapted into a Todd Haynes film starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara (star of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and just about to premiere at Cannes.
Olivia Laing (The Guardian) offers a brief history