‘Bossypants’ and Other New Memoirs by Literary Ladies

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Growing up female is hard work; you have to be attractive, independent, smart, and funny, but not too challenging if you want to get a date. Or you could just be pretty, but that’s not as much fun, is it? The following is a group of women who have recently written memoirs about their tumultuous twenties and thirties, with the exception of Alexandra Styron, who writes about growing up in the shadow of her father, William, a founder of the Paris Review and the author of Sophie’s Choice. Anne Roiphe also writes about William Styron in her book, but through a decidedly different lens — that of a sexual encounter with him: “I am like a glass left on the bar, empty, a lipstick stain on the lip, a melted ice cube at the bottom.” All of these women write about the men who have shaped their lives during these confusing years, when they’re striving to make something of themselves while also attempting to find love and happiness along the way. As Lisa Belkin writes in the New York Times, “How does Tina Fey juggle it all?” How do all of these women?

Bossypants by Tina Fey

“What 19-year-old Virginia boy doesn’t want a wide-hipped, sarcastic Greek girl with short hair that’s permed on top?” queries Fey. “What’s that you say? None of them want that? You are correct. So I spent four years attempting to charm the uninterested.”

Fey writes about her rise from an improv underling to the executive producer of 30 Rock in her memoir, while bringing some levity to perennial issues like sexism, working motherhood, and being a woman in power.

Popeater has included some excerpts from the book in “5 Things We Learned Reading Tina Fey’s Bossypants here.

Art and Madness: A Memoir of Lust Without Reason by Anne Roiphe

Roiphe reports from within the Paris Review circle during a heady time of casual orgies, liver-pickling parties, and the excesses that occur during a retreat to the Hamptons or an extended stay in Paris. In her memoir, she calls out her younger self for the serious case of Florence Nightingale syndrome she picked up in high school, when all she wanted to do was support a male author so he could achieve literary greatness. NPR’s Alice Gregory reviews the book here, which includes excerpts like the one below:

“The writers gathered at George’s for an evening of pleasure and pain did not want to go gently into the next day, never mind the coffin. These kings of the hill were jostling for prizes named and unnamed and sometimes I was one of those prizes which was fine with me.”

Sempre Susan by Sigrid Nunez

In her new memoir, Nunez writes about living at Susan Sontag’s apartment while dating Sontag’s son, David: “Before I ever met Susan or David, I’d heard the talk. Now people came straight out and asked the absurd: Was it true? Had they had sex together? Sometimes, rather than being asked, I was told: They must have had sex together. My presence in the household seemed to intensify speculation, bringing the pot to a boil.”

Read more from Nunez’s New York Times Magazine essay here.

Tomorrow, Nunez will be at powerHouse Books in DUMBO with Phillip Lopate from 7 to 9pm. As advertised, drinks will be served, so get a stiff one before you enter the world of 340 Riverside Drive.

Reading My Father by Alexandra Styron

“First and foremost, my father was a novelist. ‘A high priest at the altar of fiction,’ as Carlos Fuentes describes him, he consecrated himself to the Novel. He wrote in order to explore the sorts of grand and sometimes existential themes whose complexity and scope are best served by long fiction. With a kind of sacred devotion, he kept at it, maintaining his belief in the narrative powers of a great story — and he suffered accordingly in the process.”

Alexandra Styron, the youngest daughter of William, straddles the line between memoir and biography in her new book about her famous father. William Styron was one of the Great Male Novelists of the ’60s and ’70s, though he was struggling with depression throughout his lifetime. Alexandra writes about her father’s inner circle — which included Paris Review authors and editors like Peter Matthiessen, Norman Mailer, and and Arthur Miller — while also divulging uncomfortable details about her time alone with him and her hesitation to read his work.

Read more from Styron’s memoir here, or read her New Yorker essay here.

The book comes out on April 19th, and Styron will be reading on April 25 at 7 pm at Book Court in Brooklyn.