Joanne O’Leary

  • From a Whisper to a Scream

    We all know that men don’t understand women. How could they? Women spend the whole time trying to understand themselves. “I specialize in women,” the writer Nancy Hale said in 1942. “Women puzzle me.” Hale felt that she knew how, “in a given situation, a man [was] apt to react.” (She’d been married three times by the age of thirty-four.) Women, on the other hand, vexed and intrigued her. Her mother, the portraitist Lilian Westcott Hale, made a career of looking at other women, including her daughter. In The Life in the Studio (1969), a memoir about growing up with wealthy, bohemian parents,

  • Furious Seasons

    How good was Lucia Berlin? She published her first story in 1960 at age twenty-four, but her debut volume, Angels Laundromat (1981), wouldn’t appear for another two decades; Phantom Pain followed in 1984, and Safe & Sound in 1988; all three came out with small presses. Her readership grew slightly when Black Sparrow Press took her up, publishing Homesick (1990), So Long (1993), and Where I Live Now (1999), but even their support wasn’t enough; nor was the esteem in which Berlin’s terse and minimal style was held by Lydia Davis, Saul Bellow, and Raymond Carver. By the time A Manual for Cleaning