2008: 116. Passionate Minds

“This book was conceived when two writers who seemed to embody entirely different concerns - the South African “agnostic” novelist Olive Schreiner and the author of America’s champion best-seller, Margaret Mitchell - turned out to have a great deal in common.”

Passionate Minds: Woman Rewriting the World, Claudia Roth Pierpont

This book is a collection of essays/criticism by Pierpont, examining the lives and work of twelve women writers: Olive Schreiner, Ayn Rand, Mae West, Gertrude Stein, Anais Nin, Eudora Welty, Margaret Mitchell, Zora Neale Hurston, Mariana Tsvetaeva, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy and Doris Lessing.  It is absolutely excellent - a perfect blend of biography and criticism, and one of the most interesting books I have read this year.  Pierpont writes essays that discuss the lives and works of her subjects with clarity and wit - and I was left with a better understanding of all of these authors, but she doesn’t sink into the jargon/post-modern nonsense that drove me out of the English department when I was a college student.  Pierpont doesn’t always like her subjects (to be fair, they were not all very likable Ayn Rand), but she is fair to them, explaining why they did what they did and what they wrote about and why we should care about them at all.  If you have any interest in writing, or women’s issues, or really, just good stories about people, I highly recommend this book.  Pierpont writes for the New Yorker, and I was able to read a few more of her reviews on-line, but alas, she hasn’t yet written another book.   I sought out some other literary criticism in the wake of reading this (such as the Ozick I blogged about earlier), but haven’t found anyone who has excited me like this book did.  


Date/Place Completed: 7/24/08; D.C.

Categories: Non-Fiction; Commuting Book

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017