Laskin, David. Partisans: Marriage, Politics, and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.

Reason read: January 26th is Spouse Day. Read in honor of the many different couplings in Partisans.

This is like a good gossip story. At the center are six women who ruled their lives without thought of public image or reputation. They were writers who lived before the age of feminism and railed against its confines. It was a compliment to be told “you write like a man.” They were allowed to have egos, be promiscuous, vicious, betraying…all without a second thought. If feminine wile got you somewhere, so much the better. These were the New York Intellectuals who slept with men indiscriminately, married or otherwise. At their center is the Partisan Review and everyone who was associated with the magazine. Probably the best known, Mary McCarthy sleeps with the editor of PR before marrying writer Edmund Wilson. Then there’s Jean Stafford who wrote for PR while married to Robert Lowell. When the two divorced Lowell went on to marry another PR insider, Elizabeth Hardwick. Allan Tate was married to Caroline Gordon but had an affair with Elizabeth Hardwick. Are you keeping track? Other intellectuals include Hannah Arendt and Diane Trilling. They had their own dramas as well.

Quotes to quote, “They certainly had no sense of sisterly comradeship; and yet they were keenly aware of what and how other women writers were doing and where they stood” (p 191).

Author fact: Laskin has written a bunch of other books. I am only reading Partisans for the Challenge.

Book trivia: Partisans includes a bunch of black and white photographs. Mary McCarthy dominates the selection with five photographs but Robert Lowell is a close second with four images. That would make sense with Mary McCarthy being the most successful out of the whole group.

Nancy said: Partisans “explores connections and differences among writers who were associated with Partisan Review magazine” (p 110). As an aside, I’m not sure why she mentioned Delmore Schwartz. Delmore was barely a blip in the story compared to other notables such as Elizabeth Bishop or Randall Jarrell.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Group Portraits” (p 108).

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