Tag Archives: Helen Gurley Brown

Park Avenue Summer Book Review

It’s not exactly a secret that men underestimate women. But that is often our secret to success.

Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen was released earlier this year. Alice Weiss is 21 in 1965, a transplant from Ohio and dreams of becoming a photographer. But like many young people who come to New York City with a dream and not much else, Alice has to get a job.

She gets a job as the secretary for the late Helen Gurley Brown, the author of Sex and the Single Girl and the new editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan. At that time, the magazine was on it’s death bed. It was up to Helen to turn the magazine around, but it seemed to be a Herculean task. The magazine was shedding employees like a snake sheds it’s skin and the men who run the parent organization are more than ready to shut the magazine down.

When a fellow employee tries to pull Alice in into a plan to spy on her boss, Alice goes the other way. She will do everything in her power to help Helen succeed. Along the way, Alice learns a few things about life, men and success.

Described as a literary love child of The Devil Wears Prada and Mad Men, this book is more than the story of a young woman discovering herself. It is the story of an unconventional woman who succeeds in a man’s world on her own terms.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, New York City

Enter Helen The Invention of Helen Gurley Brown and the Rise of the Modern Single Woman Book Review

Helen Gurley Brown is a publishing legend. Her non-fiction book, Sex and the Single Girl, is one of the literary cornerstones of the second wave of the feminist movement. For decades Helen Gurley Brown was the editor and the face of Cosmopolitan magazine.

Enter Helen: The Invention of Helen Gurley Brown and the Rise of the Modern Single Woman, By Brooke Hauser, is the story of how Helen Gurley Brown started off life as the daughter of poor as dirt family in Arkansas and ended her life as one of the most influential women of the 20th century. Together, with her husband, David Brown, they helped to pave the way for future generations of women to move beyond the traditional roles of marriage and motherhood.

While this book was slow at certain points, I very much appreciated not only the detail that Ms. Hauser put in the book, but also the unconventional structure of the narrative. While it seems that on the surface that Helen Gurley Brown was pushing the traditional agenda for women, she was actually subtlety changing the world.

I recommend it.

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Fear Of Flying, 41 years Later

Warning: This post contain spoilers. If you have not read Fear Of Flying or you are planning to read in the future,  and do not want to be spoiled, do not read this post. I will understand.

Fear Of Flying, the classic (and sometimes controversial, depending on your point of view) novel by Erica Jong is 41 this year.

The central character is Isadora Wing, a 27 year old woman traveling with her second husband to a work conference. She dreams of the zipless f*ck, the ultimate sexual fantasy. That dream comes in the form of Adrian Goodlove, a man who will fulfill the fantasy and forces her to ask the tough questions she has been avoiding.

Fear Of Flying was published at the height of the second wave of the Feminist movement, when the old rules and the barriers that kept women confined were being torn down.  Jong and Isadora, her literary doppelganger are part of the generation who were born during World War II and came of age in the rigid 1950’s and early 1960’s.  We can look back now and see that the rules of that era were very straightforward and simple, but to the girls growing up in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, it was confusing time made even more confusing by the double standard. Fear Of Flying was a shock to the reading public, just as Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and The Single Girl and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was during the early 1960’s.

Jong, borrowing from Charlotte Bronte, uses her main character to guide us through the story. We see the world through Isadora’s eyes.  Her life is complicated. She is on her second marriage to a man who was one of her many psychoanalysts, her first husband is confined in a mental institution. Her relationship with her family is awkward and full of drama. She has big goals, but the fear keeps her from working towards those goals.

I read this book when I was 27, the same age as Isadora.  I understood who she was within the first few pages. Isadora represents and speaks for many of us when we are in our late 20’s. We are adults, but we may still be mired in our pasts or our fears keep us from reaching for our dreams, whatever they maybe.

When it comes to books, I usually take it as a good sign that within the first chapter, I can dive in emotionally early to the story and connect with the characters. I understood Isadora within the first few pages, I was hooked by the time I completed the first chapter. Jong is a master storyteller, her years of writing, introspection and using that introspection to emotionally connect to the reader and bring them into the world of her characters.

I highly recommend this book.

 

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Feminism