NYRB News


Jean Stafford’s The Mountain Lion

We are thrilled to announce that Jean Stafford’s The Mountain Lion is now on sale.

Stafford, a writer perhaps best known for her marriages to Robert Lowell, Oliver Jensen, and A.J. Liebling, was the heralded author of three novels and many short stories. The Mountain Lion, her second novel, is a devastating, unconventional coming-of-age story.

Ralph and his younger sister Molly, a pair of imaginative, precocious adolescents growing up in a genteel suburb of Los Angeles, are an inseparable pair. Fiercely independent and more than a little wild, they have no patience for the restrictions of polite society and are delighted by the opportunity to spend summers on their uncle’s Colorado mountain ranch. However, the exhilaration of the Colorado landscape, vividly depicted in Stafford’s mandarin prose, quickly becomes overwhelming as Ralph and Molly begin their unsettling transformation into adulthood. In her afterword, Kathryn Davis writes that their poignant, brutal metamorphosis is what sets The Mountain Lion apart from other texts:

The Mountain Lion is often characterized as a coming-of-age story, but it is not a conventional coming-of-age story. This book is not a conventional anything. It is one of a kind. It is freakish—like the girl at its heart—a marvel…[Its] details—not so much realistic as unreal—accumulate and grow in intensity as the novel unfolds, the world they limn increasingly disturbing, creating in the reader a similarly queer and horrible feeling…It is a story about the impossibility of growing up and the impossibility of remaining a child.

“If not the best novel of the 1940s, The Mountain Lion is a very fine book indeed, a classic of childhood rage and bewilderment told in a superbly controlled colloquial prose.” — Elaine Showalter

This gripping story, out of print for more than a decade, is filled with transformative power and intense insight.