TWO FRIENDS by Susan Koppelman


and Other Nineteenth-Century Lesbian Stories by American Women Writers
edited by
Email this review


 Eleven stories by 19th-century women writers that editor Koppelman convincingly argues are about romantic lesbian love. In her introduction and in commentaries on the individual stories themselves, Koppelman (editor of The Signet Classic Book of Southern Short Stories, not reviewed) demonstrates the many different ways that lesbianism could be camouflaged, or made ambiguous, so as to ensure the social acceptability of story and author. The result is an intriguing smorgasbord of short fiction that should delight not only students of gay and women's studies and literary historians, but also general readers with a passion for the literature of the time. The stories themselves are lovely, well-crafted gems from the likes of Sarah Orne Jewett, Mary Wilkins Freeman, and Kate Chopin. The quality and breadth of Koppelman's research is evident. Her sensitive, close readings of each work do not seek to force a particular interpretation on the reader; rather, Koppelman puts the stories in a literary and historical context and offers suggestions that allow the readers to tease lesbian sensibilities from the texts. Koppelman's keys to reading the stories are often as interesting as the stories themselves. She convincingly asserts, for example, that ghost stories like Elizabeth Stuart Phelps's ``Since I Died'' or riddle tales such as Constance Fenimore Woolson's ``Miss Grief'' are particularly good mediums for alluding to lesbian themes, because so much is left to the imagination of the reader that any intended ``impropriety'' on the part of the author cannot be proven. It is the subtlety both of the authors collected here and of the editor who draws them together that keeps the pages turning. A marvelous collection that deserves a wide audience.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-452-01119-1
Page count: 288pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1994