Mary Mccarthy Biography & Facts
Mary Therese McCarthy (June 21, 1912 – October 25, 1989) was an American novelist, critic and political activist, best known for her novel The Group, her marriage to critic Edmund Wilson, and her storied feud with playwright Lillian Hellman.
Her debut novel, The Company She Keeps, received critical acclaim as a succès de scandale, depicting the social milieu of New York intellectuals of the late 1930s with unreserved frankness. It includes her celebrated short story “The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt” which Partisan Review published in 1941. It recounts the sexual encounter of a young bohemian intellectual woman and a middle-aged businessman encountered in the club car of a train. Although she finds him fat and grey, she’s intrigued by his elegant Brooks Brothers shirts and his knowledge of literary figures. The story shockingly depicts not only the act of a woman choosing to sleep with a stranger but, more importantly, what that act shows of her needs and desires and the complexity of who she is.After building a reputation as a satirist and critic, McCarthy enjoyed popular success when the 1963 edition of her novel The Group remained on the New York Times Best Seller list for almost two years. Her work is noted for its precise prose and its complex mixture of autobiography and fiction.
Randall Jarrell's 1954 novel Pictures from an Institution is said to be about McCarthy's year teaching at Sarah Lawrence.
Her feud with fellow writer Lillian Hellman formed the basis for the play Imaginary Friends by Nora Ephron. The feud had simmered since the late 1930s over ideological differences, particularly the questions of the Moscow Trials and of Hellman's support for the "Popular Front" with Stalin. McCarthy provoked Hellman in 1979 when she famously said on The Dick Cavett Show: "every word [Hellman] writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'."
Hellman responded by filing a $2.5 million libel suit against McCarthy, which ended shortly after Hellman died in 1984. Observers of the trial noted the irony of Hellman's defamation suit was that it brought significant scrutiny. It resulted in a decline of Hellman's reputation, as McCarthy and her supporters worked to prove that Hellman had lied.Although McCarthy broke ranks with some of her Partisan Review colleagues when they swerved toward conservative politics after World War II, she carried on lifelong friendships with Dwight Macdonald, Nicola Chiaromonte, Philip Rahv, F. W. Dupee and Elizabeth Hardwick. Perhaps most prized of all was her close friendship with Hannah Arendt, with whom she maintained a sizable correspondence widely regarded for its intellectual rigor. After Arendt's passing, McCarthy became Arendt's literary executor, serving from 1976 until her own death in 1989. McCarthy taught at Bard College from 1946 to 1947, and again between 1986 and 1989. She also taught a winter semester in 1948 at Sarah Lawrence College.
Beliefs as an adult
McCarthy left the Catholic Church as a young woman, becoming an atheist. In her contrarian fashion, McCarthy treasured her religious education for the classical foundation it provided her intellect while at the same time she depicted her loss of faith and her contests with religious authority as essential to her character.
In New York, she moved in "fellow-traveling" Communist circles early in the 1930s, but by the latter half of the decade she repudiated Soviet-style Communism, expressing solidarity with Leon Trotsky after the Moscow Trials, and vigorously countering playwrights and authors she considered to be sympathetic to Stalinism.: 113–130 As part of the Partisan Review circle and as a contributor to The Nation, The New Republic, Harper's Magazine, and The New York Review of Books, she garnered attention as a cutting critic, advocating the necessity for creative autonomy that transcends doctrine. During the 1940s and 1950s she became a liberal critic of both McCarthyism and Communism. She maintained her commitment to liberal critiques of culture and power to the end of her life, opposing the Vietnam War in the 1960s and covering the Watergate scandal hearings in the 1970s.
Opposition to Vietnam War
In 1967 and 1968, McCarthy travelled to North and South Vietnam, to report on the war from an anti-war perspective. She documented her observations in two books, Vietnam, and Hanoi.Interviewed after her first trip, she declared on British television that there was not a single documented case of the Viet Cong deliberately killing a South Vietnamese woman or child. She wrote favorably about the Viet Cong.McCarthy visited North Vietnam in March 1968, only a month after the Tet Offensive created havoc in South Vietnam. In her book, Hanoi, McCarthy provides a rare English-language description of life in North Vietnam during the war. McCarthy describes an orderly society, in which everyone pitched in to help with the war effort. North Vietnam received advance warning of most bombing attacks and McCarthy regularly had to take cover from American bombs.McCarthy's visits to Vietnam were controversial. During her visit to North Vietnam, McCarthy met briefly with U.S. Air Force officer James Risner, who was being held as a prisoner of war by North Vietnam. Years later, after his release, Risner attacked McCarthy for her not having recognized that he had been tortured by the North Vietnamese while in custody.
McCarthy was the winner of the Horizon Prize in 1949, and was awarded two Guggenheim fellowships in 1949 and 1959. She was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the American Academy in Rome. In 1973, she delivered the Huizinga Lecture in Leiden, the Netherlands, under the title Can There Be a Gothic Literature? The same year she was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She won the National Medal for Literature and the Edward MacDowell Medal in 1984.McCarthy held honorary degrees from Bard, Bowdoin, Colby, Smith College, Syracuse University, the University of Maine at Orono, the University of Aberdeen, and the University of Hull.
Born in Seattle, Washington, to Roy Winfield McCarthy and his wife, the former Martha Therese Preston, McCarthy at age six and her three brothers were orphaned when both their parents died in the flu epidemic of 1918. She and her brothers, Kevin, Preston and Sheridan, were raised in very unhappy circumstances by her Catholic father's parents in Minneapolis, Minnesota, under the direct care of an uncle and aunt whom she remembered for harsh treatment and abuse.When the situation became intolerable, McCarthy was taken in by her maternal grandparents in Seattle. Her maternal grandmother, Augusta Morganstern, was Jewish, and her maternal grandfather, Harold Preston, a prominent attorney and co-founder of the law firm Preston Gates & Ellis, was Presbyterian. (Her brothers were sent to boarding school.) McCarthy credited her grandfather, who helped d.... Discover the Mary Mccarthy popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Mary Mccarthy books.