March 3, 2008
an unfinished woman
A book I read when I was in my early teens was Hellman’s Pentimento, a collection of memories in short story form. It is a book that I have since read many many times, and every time I read it I understand it differently, because I am a little bit older. Each time I identify with a new stage of Hellman’s life.
I may read An Unfinished Woman again. I will certainly always read Pentimento. Scoundrel Time is classic cold war literature.
I have never read her plays, and they don’t intrigue me as much as her life.
She lived with Dashiell Hammet for a long time, at a time when that was uncommon. Kind of like Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. They both wrote movies and had some really iconic credits; The Thin Man, The Little Foxes, The Maltese Falcon, and Jane Fonda played Hellman herself in Julia.
When I think of style icons for myself, Lillian Hellman is emphatically one of them. She dressed well but was not overly concerned with clothes. She was a woman who changed and yet always was stubbornly herself. She was talented and flawed. She was curious. Though the date and details of our lives are vastly different, I admire and aspire to achieve her style.