In this tribute to the generation of women poets born from 1923-32, Heilbrun (English/Columbia; author of Toward a...



In this tribute to the generation of women poets born from 1923-32, Heilbrun (English/Columbia; author of Toward a Recognition of Androgyny, Reinventing Motherhood and, under the Amanda Cross byline, several mystery novels) writes: ""It was the task of this generation more to dismantle the past than to imagine the future."" The splendor of Heilbrun's slim book is that she manages not only to criticize past biographers of women as ill-equipped with the vocabulary or myths to describe the nonromantic ""plots"" of women's lives, but also ""to imagine the future"" of both better lives for women and better Lives of women. Much of the feminist ground she covers is familiar, however, as she goes back and forth between the limitations that literary and social conventions impose on women's Lives and lives. Women have been limited both by the traditional female marriage plot, which she says involves abandoning all hope of freedom and self-expression, and by the male ""quest"" plot, which offers freedom only in exchange for abandoning one's identity as a woman. Women should learn to express their anger, and must not define themselves solely through service to others. All of these central platforms of the women's movement are intelligently presented, but Heilbrun does not stop with dismantling the past. She offers minibiographies of a number of famous women: George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Adrienne Rich, Dorothy Sayers, and, most revealingly, herself. She is most free to ""imagine the future"" when she puts aside her academician's voice and writes about her persona as the mystery writer Amanda Cross. As she welcomes middle age for both her character Kate Fansler and herself, she looks forward to a rich future for women: ""In the end, the changed life for women will be marked, I feel certain, by laughter."" Lengths ahead of most attempts to formulate a feminist methodology for biography or criticism, Heilbrun's suggestions are compelling.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1988

ISBN: 0393331644

Page Count: -

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1988