Nobody Said Not to Go: The Life, Loves and Adventures of Emily Hahn

Overview

Known as 'Mickey' to her friends, Emily Hahn traveled across the country dressed as a boy in the 192Os; worked as a Harvey Girl in Taos, New Mexico; ran away to the Belgian Congo as a Red Cross worker during the Great Depression; was the concubine of a Chinese poet in Shanghai in the 1930s; became an opium addict; had an affair and an illegitimate child with the head of the British Secret Service in Hong Kong just before the outbreak of World War II; was involved in underground relief work in occupied Hong Kong; ...
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Overview

Known as 'Mickey' to her friends, Emily Hahn traveled across the country dressed as a boy in the 192Os; worked as a Harvey Girl in Taos, New Mexico; ran away to the Belgian Congo as a Red Cross worker during the Great Depression; was the concubine of a Chinese poet in Shanghai in the 1930s; became an opium addict; had an affair and an illegitimate child with the head of the British Secret Service in Hong Kong just before the outbreak of World War II; was involved in underground relief work in occupied Hong Kong; and moved back to the United States and became a pioneer in the fields of environmentalism and wildlife preservation before her death last year. Mickey Hahn also wrote hundreds of articles and short stories for The New Yorker from 1925 to 1995 and wrote 52 books in her lifetime, astonishing her publishers and agents by moving effortlessly from biography to humor to fiction to travel memoir to history.

32 Black-and-White Photographs Notes/Bibliography/Index

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A globe-trotting New Yorker writer for 68 years, almost until her death last year at age 92, Emily Hahn notoriously chose the 'uncertain path,' and Cuthbertson does her adventures justice as long as the momentum holds. The first third presents the clearest picture of Hahn, without exotic trappings: Flouting convention early, Hahn graduated from the University of Wisconsin as a mining engineer, just to prove that a woman could. Through the 1920s she was a writer and a traveler, mingling with, but never quite joining, the smart set. Then in 1929, the New Yorker's editor and founder Harold Ross, took her on, saying, 'You have a great talent.... You can be cattier than anyone I know.' In 1930, she traveled alone to Penge, a remote backwater in the Congo, where her host, an American pal, turned into a kind of Mr. Kurtz, provided grist for a memoir, Congo Sale, and a novel, With Naked Foot. Hahn's exploits crested with her stay in Shanghai and Hong Kong from 1935 through 1943. Her life makes for heady cinematic stuff: her social gadding; affair with Chinese poet Sinmay Zau; opium addiction; child with and eventual marriage to Hong Kong's head of British intelligence, Charles Boxer (all set against the battle for Shanghai and the fall of Hong Kong). Unhappily, Cuthbertson begins to fall for his own melodrama ('Was that a glistening in his eyes, or was it a trick of the light?'), and the postwar pages become a tame sum of domestic arrangements and literary outpouring.
Karen Ray
As a novel, Emily Hahn's life simply would not do. It is too much of too many things. . . .The contrast between Hahn's dashing and often contrary life and Cuthbertson's diligent biography is wide indeed. -- The New York Times Book Review
Entertainment Weekly
[A] rip-roaring bio . . . Throughout, Cuthbertson maintains a brisk pace, exploring both the passion and dissatisfaction that fueled Hahn's wanderlust.
Kirkus Reviews
In this extensively researched biography, historian and journalist Cuthbertson (Inside: The Biography of John Gunther) brings to life the inspired individualism of one of this century's least recognized and most interesting journalists, Emily Hahn. When Hahn died at the age of 92 in 1997, a chapter in literary journalism closed. She had been a staff writer at The New Yorker through all four of its editorial regimes, producing 181 articles, in addition to 52 books, stories, and poems. She came of age in the '20s in St. Louis and blazed a trail of gutsy independence and drive through New York and onward. Hahn live022d the concerns of our age with an intensity that brightened her work and brought her success. Yet it would be wrong to call her a feminist, though feminists owe a great deal to characters like her. Cuthbertson fails to address this distinction, an important one for Hahn. Her life was defined as much by profession as by passion. Ever the 'roving heroine' (as described by Roger Angell), she built her literary career upon impressions of a world in flux. Her swath of discovery stretched across Africa (during the Depression), India, and China, where she broke with Western morality and became a concubine and opium partner to the Chinese intellectual/publisher Sinmay Zau just before the outbreak of WWII. A lasting love affair with the head of the British Secret Service began in Hong Kong during that city's occupation, a fascinating period which led to some of her most important work. Hahn once wrote that 'she wanted desperately to be noticed, and equally desperately to be let alone.' Her exhibitionism found perfect expression in her life's work. Hahn'slife-at-large was an exhilarating trip across an era. Some of the later research drags on, but Cuthbertson's contagious commitment to the significance of this life almost justifies every word. Social history at its best.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780571199655
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber
  • Publication date: 10/1/1999
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.11 (w) x 9.11 (h) x 1.08 (d)

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