by Marion Meade
Nan A. Talese, May 18, 2004
As hard as it was to pull myself away from the television this weekend (six soccer matches! eight episodes of Gilmore Girls!), I did also read a book. A non-fiction book, even. This book, Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin, which is a mixed autobiography of four American women writers from the 1920s, Dorothy Parker, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edna Ferber, and Zelda Fitzgerald.
You'd think that with subject matter like that, you couldn't lose. Unfortunately, you'd be wrong. This book is just not very good. It portrays all four women, to greater or lesser degrees, as pampered, marginally talented, mentally ill, alcoholics. Which, in some cases, is likely true, but it's not very interesting, particularly when all four of the female protagonists, who were, to my knowledge, quite different, are treated interchangeably.
I started the book knowing very little about any of the women it portrayed, and I think I ended it knowing not much more. The accounts given in the book seemed very surface level, artificial, and doubtfully well-researched. And more lines and thought seemed to be given to the male characters who should have been out the outskirts (especially the fairly repulsive F. Scott Fitzgerald) than they were warranted. All in all, I found it disappointing. It did peak my interest in these women (particularly Edna Ferber, about whom I previously knew nothing) and this time period for American female writers, but it did nothing to hold it. Guess I'll have to look elsewhere.