A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman

A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman

by Alice Kessler-Harris


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A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman by Alice Kessler-Harris

Lillian Hellman was a giant of twentieth-century letters and a groundbreaking figure as one of the most successful female playwrights on Broadway. Yet the author of The Little Foxes and Toys in the Attic is today remembered more as a toxic, bitter survivor and literary fabulist, the woman of whom Mary McCarthy said, "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.'" In A Difficult Woman, renowned historian Alice

Kessler-Harris undertakes a feat few would dare to attempt: a reclamation of a combative, controversial woman who straddled so many political and cultural fault lines of her time.

Kessler-Harris renders Hellman's feisty wit and personality in all of its contradictions: as a non-Jewish Jew, a displaced Southerner, a passionate political voice without a party, an artist immersed in commerce, a sexually free woman who scorned much of the women's movement, a loyal friend whose trust was often betrayed, and a writer of memoirs who repeatedly questioned the possibility of achieving truth and doubted her memory.

Hellman was a writer whose plays spoke the language of morality yet whose achievements foundered on accusations of mendacity. Above all else, she was a woman who made her way in a man's world. Kessler-Harris has crafted a nuanced life of Hellman, empathetic yet unsparing, that situates her in the varied contexts in which she moved, from New Orleans to Broadway to the hearing room of HUAC. A Difficut Woman is a major work of literary and intellectual history. This will be one of the most reviewed, and most acclaimed, books of 2012.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608193950
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 08/06/2013
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 388,365
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Alice Kessler-Harris is the R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American History at Columbia University, in New York City. She is one of America's most renowned scholars, known for her work on labor and gender history. She is the author of the classic history of working women, Out to Work. Her In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in Twentieth Century America won the Joan Kelly, Philip Taft, Herbert Hoover, and Bancroft Prizes. In 2012 she served as President of the Organization of American Historians.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Old-Fashioned American Traditions 16

2 A Tough Broad 35

3 A Serious Playwright 73

4 Politics Without Fear 101

5 An American Jew 137

6 The Writer as Moralist 159

7 A Self-Made Woman 191

8 A Known Communist 234

9 The Most Dangerous Hours 266

10 Liar, Liar 302

11 Life After Death 342

Acknowledgments 358

Notes 361

Bibliographical Guide 421

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A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is just another apologia for a proven communist stooge. Hellman couldn't see the suffering of Russian peasants and would never acknowledge it. She didn't acknowledge that Stalin killed off all competitors in the late 30s. She justified Stalin's participation in the launch of World War II, plus the attack on Finland. Is this book really "truthful"? Go judge.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a woman ! Ahead of her time and still is .... really captures not just a life story but connects it to the time frames that shaped a great playwriter
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderful read, thoughtful and thought provoking; enlightening and affirming. What a great character to discover through this authors work!