WRITERS IN LOVE by Mary Kathleen Benet


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Benet, author of the thoughtful The Politics of Adoption (1975, p. 1403), now ventures into literary biography and criticism. Examining the works and lives of Katherine Mansfield, George Eliot, and Colette, she argues that the artistic achievement of each is closely linked to her achievement of a vital though unconventional marital relationship. Moreover, the psychological wholeness and health demonstrated by the three men (Middleton Murry, Lewes, Goudeket) who could ""treat their successful wives as beloved equals"" teaches us a great deal about the ""creative"" nature of happy relationships. This attractive approach is carried out with some style, and the subject will draw attention. But closer inspection reveals much gratuitous axgrinding and much vague throwing-around of literary words. It is no service to Mansfield to play her off against ""the ultimate aridity of. . . technique"" in Virginia Woolf and D. H. Lawrence: ""Not for them the moments when love triumphs over inability to love."" It is clumsy and ignorant to invoke ""the Protestant double-think that began with Paradise Lost"" in order to treat the repeated antithesis between ""good"" women and temptresses in Victorian novels. And those who remember some of Colette's preciosities about lesbian relationships will wonder whether ""in all her works"" she ""demystified lover and eroticism and faced them squarely and fully illuminated."" Given the richly stimulating materials, a writer of Benet's capable and sympathetic intelligence should have been able to produce a more solid book.

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 1976
Publisher: Macmillan