Katherine Mansfield (Magill's Literary Annual 1989)
Katherine Mansfield lived only thirty-four years and in that short time produced but a modest body of work, mostly short fiction. Normally, such circumstances would almost guarantee obscurity, since very few fiction writers have been able to establish reputations without at least one significant novel. (Edgar Allan Poe and Anton Chekhov are among Mansfield’s few peers in this regard.) This being the case, it is particularly remarkable that Claire Tomalin is the third biographer in a decade to chronicle the short, tragic life of Katherine Mansfield. Jeffrey Meyers’ Katherine Mansfield (1978) and Antony Alpers’ definitive The Life of Katherine Mansfield (1980) would seem to leave little room for fresh information or insights. What can Tomalin claim to provide as justification for yet another biography?
To her credit, Tomalin faces this question on the opening pages of her study and offers as justification her reinterpretations of certain key events: Mansfield’s sexual experimentation, which led to gonorrhea in 1909; her being blackmailed in 1920 by the same man who gave her this disease; and her influence on D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. Above all, in Tomalin’s words, “It could even be said that her story hinges on a single physical fact. By becoming pregnant during the first months of her passionately sought freedom in London, she set in motion a sequence of events which ran to her death fourteen years later. . . .” In...
(The entire section is 1705 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1989)
The Atlantic. CCLXI, May, 1988, p. 94.
Booklist. LXXXIV, March 15, 1988, p. 1216.
Kirkus Reviews. LVI, January 15, 1988, p. 114.
London Review of Books. IX, November 26, 1987, p. 24.
New Statesman. CXIV, October 30, 1987, p. 29.
The New York Review of Books. XXXV, March 17, 1988, p. 28.
The New York Times Book Review. XCIII, May 15, 1988, p. 15.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXIII, February 5, 1988, p. 77.
The Times Literary Supplement. January 8, 1988, p. 27.
The Washington Post Book World. XVIII, March 27, 1988, p. 4.
(The entire section is 63 words.)