Lillian Hellman

An Imperious Life

Dorothy Gallagher

View Inside Price: $25.00


January 28, 2014
184 pages, 5-3/4 x 8-1/4
1 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300164978
Cloth

Glamorous, talented, audacious—Lillian Hellman knew everyone, did everything, had been everywhere. By the age of twenty-nine she had written The Children’s Hour, the first of four hit Broadway plays, and soon she was considered a member of America’s first rank of dramatists, a position she maintained for more than twenty-five years. Apart from her literary accomplishments—eight original plays and three volumes of memoirs—Hellman lived a rich life filled with notable friendships, controversial political activity, travel, and love affairs, most importantly with Dashiell Hammett. But by the time she died, the truth about her life and works had been called into question. Scandals attached to her name, having to do with sex, with money, and with her own veracity.
 
Dorothy Gallagher confronts the conundrum that was Lillian Hellman—a woman with a capacity to inspire outrage as often as admiration. Exploring Hellman’s leftist politics, her Jewish and Southern background, and her famous testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Gallagher also undertakes a new reading of Hellman’s carefully crafted memoirs and plays, in which she is both revealed and hidden. Gallagher sorts through the facts and the myths, arriving at a sharply drawn portrait of a woman who lived large to the end of her remarkable life and never backed down from a fight.
Dorothy Gallagher is the author of Hannah’s Daughters and All the Right Enemies: The Life and Murder of Carlo Tresca, and two volumes of memoirs. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, and Grand Street. She lives in New York City.

‘This snappy biography is full of piquant details and entertaining quotations.’—Molly Guinness, The Spectator

“A sharp, insightful assessment. Gallagher cuts through the verbiage to catch Hellman in lies about herself, while detailing Hellman’s unforgiveable commitment to Stalin’s Soviet Union, and her life-long and shameful anti-anti-Communism.”—Ronald Radosh, Claremont Review of Books

"An illuminating and convincing portrait of Lillian Hellman, the real one and the heroically fanciful one."—Playbill

“Gallagher pounces on and decisively dissects the choicest bits in Hellman’s colorful and contrary life of artistic excellence and blinkered radicalism, self-mythologizing and egregious lies, creating a fast-flowing, deeply provocative portrait of a seductive, truculent, and audacious literary powerhouse.”—Donna Seaman, Booklist

“Gallagher has shown herself to be an incisive, sharp-edged, darkly humorous writer, and these qualities help engage readers in a study of Lillian Hellman (1905–1984) that might otherwise seem mean-spirited. The author has no personal ax to grind against her subject, as do many of the sources she quotes, but her portrait is all the more devastating since it seems so matter-of-fact.”—Kirkus Reviews
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