A snapshot of bohemian life in mid-20th-century Greenwich Village, as told through a visionary’s extensive journal entries.
Lee’s candid memoir opens in 1942, when she, a 20-year-old virgin, decided to move to New York City’s Greenwich Village and become a lesbian. As World War II raged on and her male contemporaries were drafted into service, Lee was welcomed into a small circle of artists. Lee lost her virginity to bearded, wild-haired Joachim â€œJack” Probst and gave up her lesbian dreams in favor of an unconventional life in the Village with him. Theirs was a turbulent match, marred by infidelities, separations and financial instability, which Lee confided through letters to her confidant, worldly friend Wickie. Lee then fled to San Francisco to be an artists’ model and quickly befriended free-spirited Babs, who fell ill to tuberculosis. Sad and disoriented, Lee returned to New York and Probst; soon after, she became pregnant with daughter Lilith. Probst promptly left the scene and Lee ambitiously searched for another romantic connection. She became involved with an older painter, Arthur Gunn, who introduced her to the work of Georgia O’Keeffe, the woman who forms the emotional thrust of the memoir. Lee’s interest was mildly piqued, but it wasn’t until she met O’Keeffe through sculptor Ernest Guteman that she became influenced and spent a summer working with the distinctive artist. Eventually, Lee betrayed Gunn with Guteman, living with him for two years before marrying another man, creative-writing professor Richard Lee. The two moved to California, became involved with spiritual workshops of the ’70s, and Lee had a spiritual awakening while shopping at Sears. Though O’Keeffe and her subsequent impact on the author materialize a bit later than readers will expect, it won’t detract from the memoir’s allure since Lee has already done the spadework of making herself a good-natured, insightful, resilient narrator, brimming with heartfelt emotion.
An eventful, passionate chronicle set in a pivotal period in American history.