25 Books to Read Before You Die
 
 

Recently Viewed clear list


The Powell's Playlist | August 8, 2014

Peter Mendelsund: IMG The Powell's Playlist: Water Music by Peter Mendelsund



We "see" when we read, and we "see" when we listen. There are many ways in which music can create the cross-sensory experience of this seeing...... Continue »
  1. $11.87 Sale Trade Paper add to wish list

spacer
Qualifying orders ship free.
$31.50
New Hardcover
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
available for shipping or prepaid pickup only
Available for In-store Pickup
in 7 to 12 days
Qty Store Section
1 Remote Warehouse Biography- General

Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford

by

Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford Cover

ISBN13: 9780375410321
ISBN10: 0375410325
Condition:
All Product Details

Only 1 left in stock at $31.50!

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A luminous portrait of an inimitable woman and her remarkable world.

In a profile of J.K. Rowling, The Daily Telegraph (UK) said, "Her favorite drink is gin and tonic, her least favorite food, trip. Her heroine is Jessica Mitford."

"Decca" Mitford lived a larger-than-life life: born into the British aristocracy — one of the famous (and sometimes infamous) Mitford sisters — she ran away to Spain during the Spanish Civil War with her cousin Esmond Romilly, Winston Churchill's nephew, then came to America, became a tireless political activist and a member of the Communist Party, and embarked on a brilliant career as a memoirist and muckraking journalist (her funeral-industry exposé, The American Way of Death, became an instant classic). She was a celebrated wit, a charmer, and throughout her life a prolific and passionate writer of letters — now gathered here.

Decca's correspondence crackles with irreverent humor and mischief, and with acute insight into human behavior (and misbehavior) that attests to her generous experience of the worlds of politics, the arts, journalism, publishing, and high and low society. Here is correspondence with everyone from Katharine Graham and George Jackson, Betty Friedan, Miss Manners, Julie Andrews, Maya Angelou, Harry Truman, and Hillary Rodham Clinton to Decca's sisters the Duchess of Devonshire and the novelist Nancy Mitford, her parents, her husbands, her children, and her grandchildren.

Review:

"Her letters are forthright, warm, and witty to the point of being laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes serving as epistolary notes for her investigative journalism....[A] treasure." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"The letters are a treasure. Decca lived and battled by a pen that was as graceful and witty as it was sharp." Richard Eder, The New York Times

Review:

"[Sussman's] analysis of Decca's influence on her immediate circle of intimates as well as her impact on the larger community — both national and international — is perceptive and illuminating. Highly recommended." Library Journal

Review:

"The letters, which are equipped with first-rate footnotes, are excellently readable for a number of reasons." The Boston Globe

Book News Annotation:

These letters reflect the humor and wide-ranging curiosity that propelled Mitford through her adventurous life. The correspondence covers the full arc of her experiences and includes letters to Katharine Graham, George Jackson, Miss Manners, Maya Angelou, Harry Truman, and Hillary Clinton, as well as to Mitford's extensive family. Sussman, formerly an editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, provides a brief biography of Mitford and includes detailed footnotes for the letters.
Annotation 2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Book News Annotation:

These letters reflect the humor and wide-ranging curiosity that propelled Mitford through her adventurous life. The correspondence covers the full arc of her experiences and includes letters to Katharine Graham, George Jackson, Miss Manners, Maya Angelou, Harry Truman, and Hillary Clinton, as well as to Mitford's extensive family. Sussman, formerly an editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, provides a brief biography of Mitford and includes detailed footnotes for the letters. Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

The letters of "Decca" Mitford give readers a luminous self-portrait of an inimitable woman, and of 20th-century society, from the inside out.

Synopsis:

“Decca” Mitford lived a larger-than-life life: born into the British aristocracy—one of the famous (and sometimes infamous) Mitford sisters—she ran away to Spain during the Spanish Civil War with her cousin Esmond Romilly, Winston Churchills nephew, then came to America, became a tireless political activist and a member of the Communist Party, and embarked on a brilliant career as a memoirist and muckraking journalist (her funeral-industry exposé, The American Way of Death, became an instant classic). She was a celebrated wit, a charmer, and throughout her life a prolific and passionate writer of letters—now gathered here.

Deccas correspondence crackles with irreverent humor and mischief, and with acute insight into human behavior (and misbehavior) that attests to her generous experience of the worlds of politics, the arts, journalism, publishing, and high and low society. Here is correspondence with everyone from Katharine Graham and George Jackson, Betty Friedan, Miss Manners, Julie Andrews, Maya Angelou, Harry Truman, and Hillary Rodham Clinton to Deccas sisters the Duchess of Devonshire and the novelist Nancy Mitford, her parents, her husbands, her children, and her grandchildren.

In a profile of J.K. Rowling, The Daily Telegraph (UK), said, “Her favorite drink is gin and tonic, her least favorite food, trip. Her heroine is Jessica Mitford.”

About the Author

Jessica Mitford is also the author of Hons and Rebels (previously published as Daughters and Rebels), The American Way of Death, The Trial of Dr. Spock, Kind and Usual Punishment, A Fine Old Conflict, Poison Penmanship, Faces of Philip: A Memoir of Philip Toynbee, Grace Had an English Heart, and The American Way of Birth. Until her death in 1996, she lived in Oakland, California, with her husband, labor lawyer Robert Treuhaft.

Peter Y. Sussman was an award-winning editor at the San Francisco Chronicle from 1964 to 1993 and has written, edited, taught, and lectured widely since then. He is the coauthor of Committing Journalism and was a coauthor of the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics. He lives in Berkeley, California.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

rollyson2002, August 21, 2012 (view all comments by rollyson2002)
"Compilations of correspondence are necessarily biographies of a kind��"biographies of individual consciousness with less intrusive mediation and interpretation than one finds in a traditional biography," Peter Y. Sussman, editor of "Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford" writes. But what constitutes "less intrusive mediation"? Jessica Mitford supplied an admirable answer, which Mr. Sussman quotes: "The whole point of letters is to reveal the writer & her various opinions & let the chips fall where they may. Censoring them for fear of offending the subjects is in my view absolutely wrong."

Why then does Mr. Sussman disregard Mitford's uncompromising conviction? Mitford belonged to a family of outspoken individualists, including her older sister, the novelist Nancy Mitford, who satirized her own family's peculiarities and their devotion to the fascist cause. Another sister, Diana Mosley, was unapologetic about her marriage to the British fascist Oswald Mosley, and Jessica herself publicly excoriated Diana and another sister, Unity, for their pro-Hitler activities. Jessica, for her part, became a communist and later an outspoken critic of American institutions, and is perhaps best known for her watershed book, "The American Way of Death," a hilarious but savage attack on the funeral home industry.

What is more, unlike many of her fellow writers, Mitford applied her principles to herself and to her friends, sparing (with one exception) no person or organization when she believed an important principle was involved. For example, when biographer Joan Mellen asked for an interview with Mitford about her friend, the writer Kay Boyle, Mitford assented even when the capricious Boyle withdrew her support for Mellen's biography and enjoined Mitford to do the same. Mitford refused, preferring to anger her friend, and to honor an agreement, noting, as well, that she had a right to speak with anyone she liked. Would that more writers obeyed that Samuel Johnson injunction: It is more important to reveal the truth than to worry about hurting people's feelings.

Yet Mr. Sussman wants to protect Mitford's correspondents, to mitigate their pain, and is even willing to hide the identities of Communist Party members who have not, in his words, "outed" themselves. I cannot believe, based on the evidence of the very letters that Mr. Sussman provides, that Jessica Mitford would find his concerns about the tender feelings and reputations of others worthy of respect.

Mr. Sussman's motives are all the more suspect since Mitford's own Communist Party membership is one of the least attractive features of her biography. While the wayward Mitford was a problem for the party, since she was by both nature and nurture such an independent soul, she nevertheless lent her talents to an undemocratic and conspiratorial organization that took its orders from a foreign power.

Why? Because for her the party stood for social justice, especially civil rights, a laudable concern Mitford championed in countless ways in the San Francisco Bay area. She not only wrote about social issues, she put her day-to-day energies into the drive for equal rights.

At the same time, Mitford, who prided herself on her investigative skills, turned a blind eye to the global and geopolitical actions of the party, headquartered in Moscow. Take, for example, the astonishing letter Mitford wrote after visiting Hungary shortly before the 1956 rising, which (Mr. Sussman notes) resulted in 30,000 deaths in Budapest alone: "Why couldn't we see signs of this while we were there?" she wrote to her mother-in-law. Why indeed. Anyone who traveled, as I did, in communist Europe right through the end of the 1970s, had to be aware of repressive and closed societies that produced sullen functionaries and a cowed populace ready to unburden itself to visiting Americans if an appropriately secure location could be arranged.

Mitford (a member of the party until 1958) expressed some sympathy with the uprising, but look how she frames her discussion:

However, I gather from news releases that the rebels were quickly joined by fascists and that a "white terror" was being established. Because of this, I think in the long run the interests of the Hungarian people are best served by entry of Russian troops.

It takes your breath away. As Woody Allen said in "Annie Hall": "Excuse me, I'm due back on planet earth."

While Mitford's criticisms of American social institutions often hit their mark, the Soviet Union, until very late in the day, got no more than wry wrist slaps. Her letters disclose a love of causes, and even the fawning Mr. Sussman admits that sometimes Mitford was not doing much more than stirring the pot.

Mitford was a muckraker, and the downside of a continual raking of the muck is that the raker can get pretty soiled herself. I was dismayed to read, for example, these gloating passages:

I was also successful in getting the book [a history of the Mitfords written from a pro-Diana bias] thoroughly trashed by reviewers in S.F. Chronicle, Boston Globe, & NYT Book Review, having pointed out to reviewers ��" all friends of mine ��" some of the stupider passages.

More on OJ: Bob [Treuhaft, her husband] & I rather agreed with you ... we were pleased with verdict but thought he's prob. guilty ... serves the cops right. A thought: sort of an Affirmative Action type of vote? Redressing centuries of injustice in our law courts?

Forget the brutality of the murder and find your solace in revolutionary justice. No wonder it took Mitford so long to leave the communist party. Elsewhere she writes that she supported Stalin: "Mainly for pragmatic reason that his lot won. Trots lost. I think Trotsky wld have been more to our liking philosophically." Her inhumanity is striking.

For all the good Mitford did in exposing corruption, there was corruption at her very core as well. She seemed to have little understanding or empathy for liberals like Senator Clinton, who once was an intern in Bob Treuhaft's law firm, but later helped her husband reform the penal system in Arkansas.

Rebecca West, who in some ways had a temperament similar to Jessica Mitford's but drew very different political conclusions from her investigative reporting, might have said Mitford lacked a sense of process, a grasp of the mechanisms by which genuine social change is accomplished. Mitford was curious about West and wrote to me, wishing to know more about my research for a biography of West.Too bad Mitford did not take to heart West's key insight: That no matter how slow and contradictory it might be, there is no substitute for the Rule of Law ��" a phrase West liked to capitalize. Resort to revolutionary justice results in no justice at all.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No

Product Details

ISBN:
9780375410321
Author:
Mitford, Jessica
Publisher:
Alfred A. Knopf
Editor:
Sussman, Peter Y.
Author:
Sussman, Peter Y.
Author:
Jessica M
Author:
Mitford, Jessica
Author:
itford
Subject:
General
Subject:
Women journalists
Subject:
British Americans
Subject:
Personal Memoirs
Subject:
Women journalists -- United States.
Subject:
General Biography
Subject:
Biography - General
Publication Date:
20061031
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
59 ILLUSTRATIONS IN TEXT
Pages:
768
Dimensions:
9.50x6.64x1.65 in. 2.33 lbs.

Other books you might like

  1. The Doctor's Daughter: A Novel by... New Trade Paper $14.50
  2. How To Speak Dog Used Trade Paper $2.95
  3. Kafka on the Shore
    New Mass Market $9.55
  4. Find Me Used Mass Market $5.50
  5. Strangers in the House: Coming of... Used Hardcover $5.50
  6. The Inheritance of Loss: A Novel
    Used Trade Paper $1.95

Related Subjects

Biography » General
History and Social Science » Europe » Great Britain » 20th Century
History and Social Science » World History » England » Historical Biographies

Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford New Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$31.50 In Stock
Product details 768 pages Alfred A. Knopf - English 9780375410321 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Her letters are forthright, warm, and witty to the point of being laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes serving as epistolary notes for her investigative journalism....[A] treasure."
"Review" by , "The letters are a treasure. Decca lived and battled by a pen that was as graceful and witty as it was sharp."
"Review" by , "[Sussman's] analysis of Decca's influence on her immediate circle of intimates as well as her impact on the larger community — both national and international — is perceptive and illuminating. Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "The letters, which are equipped with first-rate footnotes, are excellently readable for a number of reasons."
"Synopsis" by , The letters of "Decca" Mitford give readers a luminous self-portrait of an inimitable woman, and of 20th-century society, from the inside out.
"Synopsis" by , “Decca” Mitford lived a larger-than-life life: born into the British aristocracy—one of the famous (and sometimes infamous) Mitford sisters—she ran away to Spain during the Spanish Civil War with her cousin Esmond Romilly, Winston Churchills nephew, then came to America, became a tireless political activist and a member of the Communist Party, and embarked on a brilliant career as a memoirist and muckraking journalist (her funeral-industry exposé, The American Way of Death, became an instant classic). She was a celebrated wit, a charmer, and throughout her life a prolific and passionate writer of letters—now gathered here.

Deccas correspondence crackles with irreverent humor and mischief, and with acute insight into human behavior (and misbehavior) that attests to her generous experience of the worlds of politics, the arts, journalism, publishing, and high and low society. Here is correspondence with everyone from Katharine Graham and George Jackson, Betty Friedan, Miss Manners, Julie Andrews, Maya Angelou, Harry Truman, and Hillary Rodham Clinton to Deccas sisters the Duchess of Devonshire and the novelist Nancy Mitford, her parents, her husbands, her children, and her grandchildren.

In a profile of J.K. Rowling, The Daily Telegraph (UK), said, “Her favorite drink is gin and tonic, her least favorite food, trip. Her heroine is Jessica Mitford.”

spacer
spacer
  • back to top
Follow us on...




Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.