Jean Stafford

[ Biography/Memoir ]

Jean Stafford

The Savage Heart

By Charlotte Margolis Goodman

In this literary biography, Goodman traces the life of the brilliant but troubled Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Jean Stafford, and reassesses her importance.

1990

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Paperback

6 x 9 | 416 pp. | 15 b&w photos

ISBN: 978-0-292-73574-3

One of America's best short story writers and author of three fine novels, Boston Adventure (1944), The Mountain Lion (1947), and The Catherine Wheel (1952), Jean Stafford has been rediscovered by another generation of readers and scholars. Although her novels and her Pulitzer Prize–winning short stories were widely read in the 1940s and 1950s, her fiction has received less critical attention than that of other distinguished contemporary American women writers such as Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor, and Eudora Welty. In this literary biography, Charlotte M. Goodman traces the life of the brilliant yet troubled Jean Stafford and reassesses her importance.

Drawing on a wealth of original material, Goodman describes the vital connections between Stafford's life and her fiction. She discusses Stafford's difficult family relationships, her tempestuous first marriage to the poet Robert Lowell, her unresolved conflicts about gender roles, her alcoholism and bouts with depression—and her amazing ability to transform the chaotic details of her life into elegant works of fiction. These wonderfully crafted works offer insightful portraits of alienated and isolated characters, most of whom exemplify not only human estrangement in the modern world, but also the special difficulties of girls and women who refuse to play traditional roles.

Goodman locates Jean Stafford within the literary world of the 1940s and 1950s. In her own right, and through her marriages to Robert Lowell, Life magazine editor Oliver Jensen, and journalist A. J. Liebling, Stafford associated with many of the major literary figures of her day, including the Southern Fugitives, the New York intellectual coterie, and writers for the New Yorker, to which she regularly contributed short stories. Goodman also describes Stafford's sustaining friendships with other women writers, such as Evelyn Scott and Caroline Gordon, and with her New Yorker editor, Katharine S. White.

This highly readable biography will appeal to a wide audience interested in twentieth-century literature and the writing of women's lives.

Charlotte M. Goodman is Professor Emerita of English at Skidmore College.

"Goodman's biography not only makes a significant contribution to our understanding of Jean Stafford and her work, but also to the field of literary biography."
—Kathryn Davis, author of Labrador