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James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon Hardcover – 8 Aug 2006
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She’s mostly known for her writing under the name James Tiptree Jr. and it was here that she was heralded as the new name in science fiction where she was celebrated for ten years. That was, of course, until the truth was uncovered. Once editors knew she was female the exact same work they had loved was then dismissed.
I love reading biographies, and autobiographies. I’ve possibly read more than your average joe, but this would easily be my favourite. Phillips does an extraordinary job at showing many aspects of Sheldon’s life – both her flaws and where she faed injustice. We get to see papers and photos from her life, the correspondence she kept with those closest to her (such as Joanna Russ and Ursula K. Le Guin), and Phillips keeps them in a flowing order where it’s almost impossible to put the book down – even at some stages you simply have to, given the length of the book, and the amount and weight of knowledge you’re taking on.
Sheldon wasn’t always a nice person. Troubled, complex, extraordinary – we get to see clearly exactly what she thought of herself, and it isn’t always comfortable. You can always feel sympathy for her though, and an increasing urge to read everything she put out there.
Highly, highly recommended, and bravo to Phillips for an excellent job on this biography – seriously, first class and deserves a dozen awards.
As a biographer, the author is completely transparent throughout until the acknowledgements at the end. I never at any point asked who was writing and to what end. The writing was tight and professional, and the research impressive.
The e-book was perfectly legible, and the chapter headings and openings were formatted. The acknowledgements implied there were references; if they were supposed to be in the text I never saw any. The index had no page numbers- I suppose they wouldn't be meaningful in an e-book.
So, I recommend this book for people interested in writers and writing. Fans of science fiction interested in the history of the genre will also enjoy it, as will people involved in research and biography.
brilliant, beautiful, talented but very broken woman who became the
successful and edgy science fiction author known as James Triptree,
Jr. It's amazing that the author was able to find so much material
and interview so many people who knew this mostly-reclusive woman, and
achieve such depth of understanding of her. How I wish that Alice had
found a truly insightful psychiatrist who could have led her to face
herself, get off speed and treat her emotional problems directly.
Sadly she saw male doctors who all-but-ignored her sexuality, and her
fear and attraction to death.
Minor quibble: the author repeatedly states that Alice is "flirting"
with her correspondents in her letters to science fiction authors,
editors, etc. Nothing that she quoted seemed to me to be flirting,
just compliments and praise, with little innuendo.
Anyone who enjoys biographies, especially of interesting and
strong-but-tragic women, will love this book. Unfortunately it's
a tragic story that caused me to cry several times. Nevertheless
I loved it.