Mary McCarthy, Natural Rebel

Mary McCarthy, a preeminent voice in mid-twentieth-century American political journalism and literary criticism, was also a bestselling fiction writer. Norman Mailer savaged her and by extension all those whose reviews of her most popular novel, The Group, “came in on wings of gold.” Now that the Library of America has issued her complete fiction in two volumes, all the evidence is in one slipcase. We can decide once and for all if McCarthy wrote “lady-books,” as Mailer so dismissively sniped.

If your last acquaintance with her 1963 succès de scandale about Vassar’s class of 1933 was decades ago, a rereading may not trigger recall so much as wonder. Wonder at, for one thing, such dewy immediacy in eighty-five-year-old characters. And for those who press on into a first encounter with the work that came both before and after her career-defining bestseller, even bigger surprises await. This is a perfect moment, in terms of the progress of our political development as well as the sand through feminism’s hourglass, for the Library of America’s release of McCarthy’s complete fiction. The two volumes comprise a body of work that retains startling and unsettling relevance. Her novelistic output (seven in total, plus several masterful and biting stories) shows the breadth of one of the fiercest minds in American letters. Considered from a new century, the works that span 1942 to 1979 provide a finely calibrated scope through which to assess how much, and how little, has changed. They also demonstrate the singular power of fiction itself to present complexities unavailable to any other mode of writing.

McCarthy (1912–89, produced nonfiction aplenty, reviews, and political commentary for The New Republic, The Nation, Partisan Review, and The New York Review of Books. She ran in powerful intellectual circles, associating with the likes of Hannah Arendt, Elizabeth Hardwick, Philip Rahv and — in this case marrying, too — Edmund Wilson. Her life and influence were the subjects of notable biographies by Frances Kiernan, Carol Brightman, Doris Grumbach, and her own autobiography, Memories of a Catholic Girlhood. She published lengthy dissections of Vietnam and Watergate, preceded by critical examinations of the varieties of Communism. Her views often contradicted the prevailing trend and sometimes her previously expressed ideas: she became known as Contrary Mary. For as long as she lived she remained outspoken politically and personally, reserving the right to be “difficult,” long the peculiar slur for women who presume to speak and be heard. (It’s hard not to wish we could have had her around to pronounce on the campaign of the first female major party nominee for president.) Her famous feud with Lillian Hellman turned litigious when she declared, on the Dick Cavett Show, that “every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’ ” McCarthy may have had genuine ideological differences with Hellman, primarily over Stalinism, but this epic putdown is McCarthy in a quip: lacerating, precise, supremely clever, edged with self-destruction, and above all opportunistic. For McCarthy was a dizzying font of intellect, one that sometimes overran its basin.

In The Group the author drew from real life with the mercilessness that would become legendary — a distressing experience for the classmates who found themselves undressed both literally and figuratively in the novel. Her practice of borrowing others’ lives and animating them to serve her fiction’s social critiques would indeed have been as cruel as her detractors claimed, if she had not also used herself even more brutally. One finds McCarthy, or prismatic parts of her, in characters everywhere. Her first novel, The Company She Keeps, is a collection of interlinked stories about women and men deeply contextualized in the world of ’30s intelligentsia. It heralded one of her abiding themes: the trap of gendered expectations. McCarthy claimed she was not a feminist, but she could disavow only the label; she wrote deeply, and painfully, of having an exquisitely trained mind, one that naturally yearned for real use. Instead, it was a talented woman’s misfortune to be schooled (and especially at Vassar!) for a world that demanded higher education only as finishing-school polish for upper-class females, a string of pearls to be worn in public and taken off at night. And so politics infuses every act in her stories, from choosing a sexual partner to the type of cocktail served; McCarthy was so honestly feminist she used class hypocrisy and the abuse of power in the bedroom, the office, the marriage, in order to postulate its presence in every sphere of human activity.

She wrote at a canter, an artfully controlled gait just shy of a gallop — “How Hemingway would have written had he gone to Vassar,” claimed Jack Paar in 1963. With one telling detail she would illuminate the essence of character, as with the Ivy Leaguer who tries on Das Kapital to discover it’s a good look for him. A stand-in for McCarthy herself, simultaneously satirized and elevated, opines, “Liberty is read by the masses, and the Liberal is read by a lot of self-appointed delegates for the masses whose principal contact with the working class is a colored maid.” (Her work’s frank depiction of sex was enormously shocking for the time; its casual racism is likely more so for ours.)

McCarthy’s is characteristically modern fiction in that it eschews heroes and villains: everyone sucks in some ways, suffers pitiably in others. Everyone, in short, is like McCarthy herself. In the only nonfiction piece in these volumes, a reminiscence titled “The Novels That Got Away,” she sums up her own fractured personality best. (She was not the type to give anyone else the last word, especially about her.) “I was a natural rebel who was also in love with law. This was my autobiography, and it was not going to change.”

Also unchanging is the ever-turning wheel of history, which appears to move forward but merely comes round again. Nearly every circumstance that might otherwise be relegated to a quaint past in some fictions of a bygone century seems near again, not only on account of McCarthy’s lively, engaged, emotionally charged prose. In reading the deluded bluster of characters who know what’s right for the world and brook no alternative view, we are unfortunately apt to feel the shiver of a lot of Plus ça change . . . The dangers of illegal abortion, a plot element in the perfectly realized A Charmed Lifean acid condemnation of self-deception as embodied by the denizens of the fictional New Leeds standing in for Wellfleet, the site of McCarthy’s own private drama when married to Wilson — are terrifying. They threaten to become real again.

The easy, natural politicism of her early work — shown, not told, in action and interior monologue, her usual method — gives way in her final novel to a more forced form of satire. Published in 1979, Cannibals and Missionaries presciently ushered in the subject that consumes ever more of our cultural bandwidth, not to mention human lives: terrorism. A plane carrying a bunch of largely clueless do-gooders is hijacked by terrorists and tragedy, along with pontificating, ensues. The characters are so striated with opposing views and perverse qualities — and endless chatter — there is no one who appears feeling, thinking, real, whole. There is no one, more to the point, who is McCarthy with another name.

The great revelation of this collection is the lesson that politics can be, and necessarily are, most fully expressed in fiction. The news peg will fall out of the wall; timeliness will always be rendered past. What remains forever is the variegated humanity of people who seek and search, suffer and fail — the people McCarthy wrote into being. All the people she was.


Image of Mary McCarthy from the Library of Congress.


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The Barnes & Noble Review

Tigers, Horses, and Stripes

Ellen Berkenblit’s striking new paintings at Anton Kern Gallery are a riot of luminous colors. Each layer of paint reveals shapes and colors, both painted and sewn, as if simultaneously pre-existent and made anew. In other works, the layers within Berkenblit’s paintings seem to display the history of their own making.

mikenudelman:Here’s how your Fourth of July fireworks work.

Magnificent Home Designed by Kamran Heirati Architects in Iran

This magnificent home, covering a total area of 1,100 square meters, is located in the city of Karaj, capital of the Alborz Province, Iran. It was designed by the architectural studio Kamran Heirati Architects. The building is divided into two parts: an entertainment area with a jacuzzi and an outdoor pool to cater to the homeowners’ sociable lifestyle, and a more private residence. The structure is divided into two blocks,..


On this day in 1864, President Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land…

On this day in 1864, President Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant, protecting the Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley – an area that would later become Yosemite National Park. It was the first time the government protected land because of its natural beauty so that people could enjoy it. Thanks to John Muir’s passionate writing to further protect the delicate ecosystem of the High Sierra, Yosemite became our nation’s 3rd national park 26 years later. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Basiago.

10 Easy Steps To Buying A New Mattress

You’ve decided to get to bed early. You unplugged all your devices, made the room temperature comfortable and turned off the lights.

An hour has passed and you’re still wide awake, tossing and turning in a modern reenactment of the Princess and the Pea. After a couple more turns, you managed to get to sleep – only to wake up feeling crappy with an aching body.

Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t just about proper sleep hygiene. The right mattress counts, too.

Now, if you are wondering how and where you should start, here are 10 easy steps to help you find the right mattress.

Check your mattress

Ideally, you should change your mattress every 9 to 10 years. However, if you are constantly waking up with pain in your lower back, neck and shoulders, you should make the replacement sooner.

The presence of lumps and sagging are telltale signs you need to buy a new mattress. Frequent sneezing, while you’re on your bed, is a bad sign, too. Household allergens can accumulate on your mattress over time and if you don’t act right away, you can end up with allergies that can give you more than just poor sleep.

Know what you want

There’s no universal rule when it comes to mattresses. You should stick with your own preference to ensure your comfort.

Take note of what you liked in your past beds and consider the things you didn’t find comfortable. This is particularly important, especially if you’ll be buying your mattress in a physical store. A lot of salespeople can talk you into buying the most expensive mattress that’s nowhere near comfortable.

Assess your sleeping style

sleeping position

One of the most important things you should consider when buying a new mattress is your sleeping style.

  • If you are a side sleeper, you should find a mattress that can provide adequate support for your hips, shoulders and other pressure points.
  • In case you are a back sleeper, the best mattress for you is one that can support the natural curve of your back and spine. When lying flat, you should be able to insert no more than one finger between the mattress and your back.
  • For stomach sleepers, pick a mattress that can prevent your lower back and stomach from bending downward as it can cause tension and pain.

See Also: Do You Have The Right Mattress For Your Body Type?

Do your research

Before making a purchase, make sure you do your research first. Ask your friends and family about what type of mattress they are using and know their experiences. Check reviews online and see how well certain mattresses last. You can also visit manufacturer websites to know what materials they are using for their products.

Set a budget

The most expensive price tag doesn’t guarantee the highest comfort. In finding the best mattress, it’s actually more about your body type, sleeping style and preference.

You can find a lot of quality mattresses under $1000. Some of them are even priced lower. When shopping around, make sure you do your research first so you won’t fall victim to tempting sales pitch.

Shop around

Once you are done with your research, it’s time to explore. Go to local showrooms and browse mattresses online. Get a feel of the different brands and see what you like and don’t like. Take note of their prices as well as other information you might find important.

While shopping around, be careful not to make any commitment yet. You are likely to encounter a lot of salespeople but don’t feel pressured into making a purchase until you are ready and sure.

Take the time to test the mattresses

test the mattress

Your body needs at least 15 minutes to fully relax. Use this time to test each mattress.

Lie down on your typical resting position and see how well the mattress can support your body. Take note of the areas that are making you feel comfortable as well as the parts that are making you feel awkward. You shouldn’t experience any numbness or pain. Mattresses can be firm, soft, or in-between.

Don’t be afraid to ask

When you don’t have enough time to test all the mattresses or you just want to be clear about your choice, don’t hesitate to ask the salespeople. Although they are trying to make a sale, you can still get accurate information from them if you ask the right questions.

Take, for example, a mattress’ motion separation. You won’t be able to determine if a bed has good motion separation if you’re testing it out alone. The same goes for temperature regulation as well as a mattress’ foundation.

Read the fine print

Shopping for a good mattress doesn’t end with price or materials. You also have to be aware of the guarantees, returns and warranties. Be clear about what is and isn’t covered so you’ll know what to expect.

Keep your mattress in shape longer

Now that you’ve found the perfect mattress for you, protect and extend its life so you can have more nights of good sleep.

Here are some of the things you can do:

  • Routinely clean your mattress at least twice a year by flipping and rotating it.
  • Strip the cover of the bed and vacuum its fabric covering. Make sure to vacuum the entire surface area to ensure that there are no pet hair, dust or cracker crumbs left.
  • If there are any stains, wash them with a mild detergent and water. You can also use an enzyme-based cleanser. Be careful not to saturate the mattress and make sure its’s completely dry before you make your bed.
  • You can deodorize your mattress by sprinkling a bit of baking soda over it. Let it sit for a couple of hours before vacuuming.
  • Expose your mattress to fresh air and sunlight. This is one good way to eliminate bacteria.
  • Replace and wash your beddings once a week.
  • Use a disinfecting spray on the mattress as well as the box spring to get rid of bad bacteria.
  • Invest in a good mattress cover. It will protect your mattress from dirt and stains.

See Also: 10 Things You Never Knew About Bed Bugs


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Elegant and Historic Apartment in the Centre of Gothenburg, Sweden

There are spaces that implicitly contain a feeling of elegance, be it because their walls are covered in stucco moldings, because their ceilings are painted to turn into what are truly works of art – and works of art for which it is a priority that they’re preserved and taken care of – or because they have elegant doors with details, or chimneys that tell stories of time and style..


Well-lit Home in Central London Designed by 2d4

Casa CL, as this project is named, was designed by the architectural firm 2d4, which has offices in both London, England and Naples, Italy. The project in question is located in Earl’s Court, a district of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in central London. The owners do not live permanently in the UK, but still wished to own a place in London that they could call home, and..


How To Start A Cat Hotel

“I really just want to quit my job, move somewhere gorgeous and open my own B&B.”

That’s the secret dream of countless executives and “worker bees” alike. Chances are, they’re thinking of a luxurious inn that’s a peaceful, upscale retreat for humans – not a smaller facility filled with often-yowling and often-demanding cats.

Then again, those dreamers are probably not “cat people.” They can’t understand how fun it is to tend to a building filled with adorable, playful and trouble-making feline guests. That could be an ideal situation for cat lovers, though.

If this describes you, here’s a look at how to start a cat hotel.

The Basics

basic cat hotel
Via pinterest

Let’s get this out of the way up front: you’re not going to make millions of dollars running a cat hotel. You can, however, make a decent supplemental income or even develop a viable small business by providing a reliable, safe and comfortable home for cats whose owners are out of town on holiday or for business travel.

Before taking any concrete action, research and planning are essential. Here are key questions to ask yourself.

Are you really up for this?

A cat hotel isn’t just a facility that has lots of cats to play with when you have the urge. You’ll have to spend hours cleaning, preparing and serving food, grooming and administering meds. Plus, there’s the administrative work you have to do on a 24/7 basis- with no vacations.

In fact, normal holiday periods will be your busiest time. A staff under your supervision can do much of the work for you. However, if you’re not actively supervising them, you may be at risk of losing everything you’ve built.

Is there an underserved market?

Many areas already have numerous cat or pet boarding facilities. Trying to take away their business is a lot harder than opening a cat hotel where there’s a demand for one.

Do you have the experience and knowledge?

Training or certification isn’t required in most areas. Just as running an inn is very different from having house guests, running a cat hotel is much more demanding than taking care of your own pets. Consider training courses or working in an existing facility before starting your own.

Do you need government approvals or permits?

You will, in many areas. You’ll also have to check zoning regulations to find out where cat hotels are and aren’t allowed.

Do you have the necessary funds?

You’ll need to acquire a suitable building, purchase everything from housing to food and market your service extensively. You’ll have to do all those things before revenue can start rolling in.

The Logistics

luxury cat hotel
Via pinterest

Still interested in taking the plunge after answering all of those questions? Here’s a brief guide on how you can start a cat hotel.

1. Find a proper location, ensuring there’s plenty of room for expansion if your business takes off. Don’t purchase or lease, though, until you’re sure that it meets all zoning requirements and you acquired all of the necessary permits.

2. Talk to a lawyer and accountant to set up the right business structure for your business. Be sure to obtain all tax IDs and permits, including employer ID numbers and sales tax permits.

3. Build suitable housing for your guests. It should be spacious, comfortable and safe. Build play areas, too. There are companies you can hire to do this for you.

4. Obtain liability insurance to protect against accidents and potential client lawsuits. Better safe than sorry.

5. Purchase the food, toys, play structures or other essentials you’ll require.

6. Hire staff members, if you have the need and the funds.

7. Build relationships with local vets, so they’ll be available in the event of emergency and (hopefully) recommend your facility.

8. Market, market, market. Start by giving away fliers and brochures at pet-related businesses and local stores. Advertise in local “coupon” magazines and build an online presence. Once you have a regular, satisfied clientele, you’ll have a regular income.


The old cliché says “Do what you love.” Running a cat hotel is a lot of work, and it will never generate enough income to let you retire to a tropical island. But for a true cat lover with a solid business plan, it’s a great way to reap financial rewards while doing what you love. And, it will definitely keep you busy!


The post How To Start A Cat Hotel appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

June 30th

Not that I want to be a god or a hero. Just to change into a tree, grow for ages, not hurt anyone.