Joanne O’Leary

Joanne O’Leary is an editor at the LRB.

Bitchy Little Spinster: Queens of Amherst

Joanne O’Leary, 3 June 2021

Nobody​ has a good word to say about Mabel Loomis Todd. When she’s remembered at all, it’s as a homewrecker: the vamp who seduced Emily Dickinson’s brother, Austin, 27 years her senior, and destroyed his marriage to Susan Gilbert, Emily’s closest confidante. Like any good seductress, Todd was an opportunist. She exploited Austin’s role as the treasurer of...

Portraying Pregnancy: From Holbein to Social Media (until 26 April; temporarily closed) opens with images of the Visitation, the encounter in St Luke’s Gospel between the expectant Virgin Mary and her sixty-year-old cousin Elizabeth, improbably pregnant, in the days before IVF, with John the Baptist. The Visitation is the Second Joyful Mystery of the rosary. For those who grew up in...

Knitting, Unravelling: Yiyun Li

Joanne O’Leary, 4 July 2019

Why write​ an autobiographical novel? Shouldn’t fiction depart from life and show us a world that’s bigger, weirder and more dramatic than our own? ‘One risks losing one’s privacy in fiction,’ Yiyun Li writes, ‘and to be anti-autobiographical lessens that danger.’ She was born in 1972 in Beijing, a daughter of the Mao regime for whom ‘privacy...

What makes a waif?

Joanne O’Leary, 13 September 2018

What I’m looking for, maybe unfairly, is a way of reconciling the Maeve Brennan who basked in the ‘lavish solitude’ of ‘small, inexpensive restaurants’ – ‘the home fires of New York City’ – with the Brennan who sparkles in her colleagues’ memoirs. The New Yorker columns bear no trace of the woman who went to a party hosted by E.B. White and silenced the room by yelling: ‘Fuck you, Brendan Gill, you goddamn Roman Catholic!’

Bin the bric-à-brac: Sara Baume

Joanne O’Leary, 4 January 2018

Sara Baume​’s first novel, Spill Simmer Falter Wither (2015), took the form of a love letter from Ray, a 57-year-old recluse, to his vicious rescue dog One Eye. Her new book, A Line Made by Walking, is narrated by Frankie, a 26-year-old artist who has a nervous breakdown, and stows away in her dead grandmother’s bungalow ‘on the brow of a yawning valley’ in rural...

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