Synopses & Reviews
Wendy W. Fairey grew up among books. Her mother, the famous Hollywood columnist Sheilah Graham, was F. Scott Fitzgerald's last lovehe died in her living room in 1940. As part of a "College of One" education, Fitzgerald would bring Graham literary classics from Charles Dickens to William Thackeray, Virginia Woolf, and Henry James. The protagonists of these books later became Fairey's intimates. Leaving her glamorous Hollywood world as a young girl, Fairey entered the English landscape of David Copperfield, whose sensibility and aspirations she intimately shared, not least because both suffered a terrible stepfather. Her many affinities with David squired her to adulthood, when she became an English professor and eventually a college dean.
This memoir is the authors literary journey through the classic British novels of late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Besides David Copperfield, her traveling companions include Daniel Deronda, the hero of George Eliot's last novel, as well as its heroine, Gwendolyn Harleth, whose suffering resembled the author's own in her stressed marriage. Both characters become important presences, and like Daniel, Fairey learned late in life of her Jewish ancestry. Other fictional companions, including Jane Eyre, Mrs. Ramsay (Virginia Woolf), Tess (Thomas Hardy), and Isabel (Henry James), weave in and out, helping her understand her own identity and trajectory. In this inspiring book, Fairey shows how great literature is and can be forever an inspiration, a companion, and a guide to living.
Praise for One of the Family
Like many children who have been victimized by a parent who lied to survive or better themselves, Wendy Fairey has the classic compensatory drive to tell nothing but the truth. . . . She says, My mother wanted to be a serious writer. And with her thoughtful, literary autobiography, Ms. Fairey has become just that.” —Jill Johnston, New York Times Book Review
A remarkable, original text.” —Anne Chisholm, Times Literary Supplement
[Fairey] is finally forced to recognize that both her father and her mother were in fact monstrous egotists. Yet she is not sorry. They were exceptional people, and to her continuing amazement, she is the daughter of them both. To know this, she concludes, makes me more securely myself. It has also enabled her at last to write her own book—and it is a genuinely fascinating one.” —Derwent May, The Times (London)
". . . a graceful and moving personal examination." —Kirkus
"This well-written and thoughtful memoir is highly recommended." —Library Journal
Praise for Bookmarked
"Faireys book is an eloquent argument on behalf of novels and their power to both reflect and enhance our lives." Boston Globe
"A warm story of the force of literature in [Fairey's] life and choices . . . [It] will especially appeal to readers already fond of good books who want insights into how reading changes lives." —Midwest Book Review
"Wendy Fairey looks unblinkingly at her own life, analyzing, admitting, parsing. . . . [This book] is memoir. It is an unusual take on literary criticism. But most important of all, it is a book about a person who is an extraordinary educator. She brings every volume alive for us." East Hampton Star
"Bookish folk will relish her conviction that literature speaks directly to personal experience. . . . Memoirs of Hollywood, and of children's recollections of the famous, abound, but this very bookish one, uniquely, is rereadable." Publishers Weekly
"This memoir enables readers to confirm how works of fiction shape lives." Library Journal
Bookmarked is a gorgeous journey through Faireys rather fascinating life, interwoven with analyses of books she taught that transformed her. A window onto a deeply personal understanding of great literature. I was moved and could not put this memoir down.” Ally Sheedy, actress
People interested in good novels, good gossip, and the conjunctions of real and imagined lives will enjoy this memoir. Wendy Faireys pleasure in reading and recalling her own story and other peoples is contagious.” Rachel Brownstein, author of Why Jane Austen?
Fairey brilliantly illustrates the enduring power of literature by employing her mastery and profound love of the classics to shine a light on the mysteries of her own life. An irresistible work of compelling scholarship and quiet beauty.” Nancy Goldstone, author of The Maid and the Queen and The Rival Queens
Wendy Fairey is a literary scholar, but dont let that fool you. Her lifelong infatuation with the novel has been a journey of the heart, as well as the mind. Her story is both unique and familiar. Its not that her scholars voice has disappeared. It has simply been tempered and made even stronger by an understanding much broader than critical analysis. Fairey reminds us here that reading can beand really it should bea personal, life-enriching pursuit.” Frye Gaillard, author of The Books That Mattered: A Readers Memoir
Wendy Fairey has gifted us with a superb literary memoir. Her journey from lonely insider/outsider daughter of famed Hollywood columnist Sheilah Graham to courageous writer, teacher, and zestful activist occurs mostly between the covers of such cherished authors as Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf. Vividly written, profoundly insightful, every lover of literature and womens lives will be inspired by Bookmarked. It is entirely enchanting.” Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt vols. I, II, and III (forthcoming)
Praise for One of the Family
Like many children who have been victimized by a parent who lied to survive or better themselves, Wendy Fairey has the classic compensatory drive to tell nothing but the truth. . . . She says, My mother wanted to be a serious writer. And with her thoughtful, literary autobiography, Ms. Fairey has become just that.” Jill Johnston, New York Times Book Review
A remarkable, original text.” Anne Chisholm, Times Literary Supplement
[Fairey] is finally forced to recognize that both her father and her mother were in fact monstrous egotists. Yet she is not sorry. They were exceptional people, and to her continuing amazement, she is the daughter of them both. To know this, she concludes, makes me more securely myself. It has also enabled her at last to write her own bookand it is a genuinely fascinating one.” Derwent May, The Times (London)
". . . a graceful and moving personal examination." Kirkus
"This well-written and thoughtful memoir is highly recommended." Library Journal
Wendy Fairey grew up among books. As the shy and studious daughter of famed Hollywood columnist Sheilah GrahamF. Scott Fitzgeralds lover during the last years of his lifeshe began as a child reading her way through the library Fitzgerald had assembled for her mother and escaped into the landscape of classic English novels. Their protagonists became her intimates, starting with David Copperfield, whose sensibility and aspirations seemed so akin to her own. She felt as plain as Jane Eyre but craved the panache of Becky Sharp. English novels squired her to adulthood, and Bookmarked
is a memoir of that journey.
In a series of brilliant chapters that blend the genres of personal memoir and literary criticism, we follow Fairey, refracted through her reading, as student, wife, professor, mother, grandmother, and happily remarried writer. E. M. Forsters Howards End helps her cope with a failing marriage; Virginia Woolfs Mrs. Ramsay teaches important lessons about love and memory. Like Eliots Daniel Deronda, she learns only as an adult of her Jewish heritage (and learns also the identity of her real father, the British philosopher A. J. Ayer). In this intimate and inspiring book, Wendy Fairey shows that her love of reading has been both a source of deep personal pleasure and key to living a fulfilling and richly self-examined life.
About the Author
Wendy W. Fairey holds a doctorate from Columbia University and teaches English literature and creative writing at Brooklyn College, where she was also formerly a dean. She is the author of One of the Family (Norton 1992), a family memoir, and Full House (SMU Press 2002), a collection of linked stories. Fairey is married to Mary Edith Mardis with whom she lives in Manhattan and East Hampton. She has two children and four grandchildren.