Jean Stafford (1915–1979) was a novelist and short story writer. Her Collected Stories won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1970.

Touch and Go

The banner of the second section of The New York Times on Thursday, March 26, 1970, read, American Churches Are Turning to Sensitivity Training, and in the article, the Rev. Gerald J. Judd, “director of Christian Education for the 2-million member United Church of Christ,” was quoted as saying, “It’s …

Living It Out

At a press conference when she first came to America in 1947, Edith Piaf was asked whom she most wanted to meet and she replied, “Einstein. And I’m counting on you to get me his phone number.” Her agent was understandably delighted with this piquant sally from his illustrious, unwashed, …

Sensuous Women

Madame Ratignolle hoped that Robert would exercise extreme caution in dealing with the Mexicans, who, she considered, were a treacherous people, unscrupulous and revengeful. She trusted she did them no injustice in thus condemning them as a race. She had known personally but one Mexican, who made and sold excellent …

Birdbath

Lady Bird Johnson’s primary reason for keeping a diary for more than five years was that, as she says in her prefatory note, she wanted her descendants to share through her eyes her “unique position, as wife of the president of the United States.” But the exercise was disciplinary as …

Gooney Bird

“Wednesday and Thursday, April 1 and 2 (1942). Up at 4:30. Left in Mercury at 5:00. Crossed on 5:45 ferry. Took U.S. Route 6 through Providence and Hartford, and crossed the Hudson, via Bear Mountain Bridge. Stopped only for gasoline and sandwiches, which I ate, driving, during the day. Took …

Survivor

“Oh, those ever-changing moods of Moscow! How swiftly they go from black to white, from one extreme to another, from friendship to accusations, from adoration to hatred, from the permissive ‘da’ to that annihilating ‘nyet.’ Those eternal swings from a thaw to a freeze, whims that disregard their own rules, …

Spirits

Nancy Cunard was a paradigm of the Twenties so assiduously accurate in her ingredients and measurements as to be a parody, and it is not surprising that she served as the model for numerous portraits of girls in the fiction of the period, most notably as Lucy Tantamount in Point …

Wolfe Hunting

At about the time Andrew Turnbull’s biography of Thomas Wolfe came out, I asked the students of a graduate class in creative writing if they had read Wolfe, and I was surprised at how many of them had. I had supposed that he had been consigned—as he was in my …

Lioness

If one’s introduction to Isak Dinesen, the Baroness Blixen, were through Parmenia Migel’s panegyric, Titania, in all likelihood one would be disinclined to read the work of the woman here presented. For she emerges inordinately egocentric, socially snobbish, imperious, posturing, appallingly arch. If one has already read her, it is …

This Happy Breed

At some point in her long, generally agreeable ramble through a Boston that no longer exists, Helen Howe causes a casual and inessential passerby from New York to speak of the “drapes” at the windows of Mark Howe’s flat on Louisburg Square, and she says, chidingly, “Gentle Americans never used …

The Collector

When Miss Isabella Stewart of New York went to Boston for the first time in 1858 to visit Miss Julia Gardner, a friend acquired at finishing school in Paris, she was taken driving in a furlined sleigh known as “Cleopatra’s Barge.” This hedonistic side of Boston, not its most conspicuous, …

Living through the War

In Divided Loyalties, The Experiences of a Scotswoman in Occupied France, Janet Tessier du Cros resuscitates civilian life during World War II with an immediacy and a tension that make it surprising to remember, in reading her, that the rasping humiliations and unforgivable tragedies and physical wretchedness of those hard …

A Sense of the Past

When Henry James revisited America in 1907, after an absence of twenty-five years, he found New York “a terrible town.” He saw it as a prodigious, thrashing lout incessantly developing neoplasms, each more unsightly than the one it had bloodily excised to make room for the new one. History could …