Elisabeth Ladenson

Elisabeth Ladenson  teaches at Columbia. She is trying to finish a book called Proust and the Marx Brothers.

On Gertrude Beasley

Elisabeth Ladenson, 21 October 2021

Oneof the last things Gertrude Beasley wrote before her disappearance in 1927 was an article called ‘I Was One of Thirteen Poor White Trash’. It came out in Hearst’s International Cosmopolitan (which became Cosmopolitan) and was billed as ‘The personal Story of Edna Gertrude Beasley, who came from the WORST POSSIBLE environment and ACHIEVED international...

The Virgin and I: the Mancini sisters

Elisabeth Ladenson, 18 December 2008

In her 1675 memoir – one of the first autobiographical accounts to be published by a woman during her lifetime under her own name – Hortense Mancini begins by noting that she is writing at the request of her patron, Charles-Emmanuel, duc de Savoie, and that she is doing so despite her ‘natural reluctance’ to talk about herself. She apologises in advance for telling a...

Someone like Maman: Proust’s mother

Elisabeth Ladenson, 8 May 2008

The heroic image of Proust in his cork-lined room, valiantly racing against death to finish his masterpiece, is now so ingrained that it eclipses that of the spoiled 30-year-old who left messages for his mother complaining about noise made by the servants; bullied her into throwing dinner parties for people who sneered at the family; and, later, challenged the father of a young man he had...

Short Cuts: Autofriction

Elisabeth Ladenson, 20 September 2007

Sex seems to have been momentarily eclipsed as a topic for French literature, giving way to something sexier: trauma. Camille Laurens and Marie Darrieussecq, two authors who until now have shared a publisher (P.O.L.), began exchanging blows last month in the literary pages of all the major papers over Darrieussecq’s latest novel, Tom est mort, a first-person narrative of a...

From The Blog
16 April 2013

A French tribunal decreed in February that all copies of Marcela Iacub’s latest book, Belle et Bête, carry a notice ‘informant le lecteur de ce que le livre porte atteinte à la vie privée de Dominique STRAUSS-KAHN’. Belle et Bête is written entirely in the second person, addressed to an unnamed man whose presidential aspirations had been brought to an end by a series of scandalous revelations starting with the accusations of a New York chambermaid. It begins ‘Tu étais vieux, tu étais gros, tu étais petit et tu étais moche,’ and continues in the same vein, recounting the narrator’s affair with the man, ‘le roi des cochons’, who likes to lick off her eye make-up and pour oil into her right ear so he can tongue it out. In another scene he asks her to suck his thumb while he talks on the phone with his wife. She ends their liaison, which does not involve more canonical forms of sexual intercourse, after he bites off her left ear and swallows it.

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