The mauve decade
Thomas Beer

About the Book

A true classic about the period, though published a generation later. The covers (not the dust jackets) of the earlier, pre-paperback editions were of mauve cloth as part of the overall point of view. ("Mauve," declared Whistler, "is pink trying to be purple.") Some of these older copies are available from dealers associated with

Beer was a wonderful stylist, in temperament something like Ambrose Bierce but more lively, even explosive at times. He was a short story writer who published mainly in The Saturday Evening Post along with William Faulkner, ten years younger, who surely derived part of his own style from Beer's. Faulkner's Introduction to The Modern Library edition of The Sound and the Fury, which consists of a quick description of each of the characters in the story that follows, uses the same form that Beer used in this book, though Beer's characters are historical figures.

Beer's first chapter is an essay on the still strong influence of Louisa May Alcott, whom he calls "The Titaness," in the 1890s. It begins, "They laid Jesse James in his grave and Dante Gabriel Rosetti died immediately." This memorable sentence sets the tone for the book.

There never has been, perhaps, a more vigorous, a more lively, a more amusing, or a more convincing takedown of Louisa May Alcott and her pernicious influence on the education of women. Surely what Beer has to say can help readers understand the world that produced Kate Chopin and other early feminist writers. "My God, woman, " he quotes a well-known lawyer of the day in a divorce case, "Did you imagine that your husband was one of Jo's Boy's?'

Happy reading, if you don't know this book.


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The Physical Object

268 p. ;
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Open Library
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