Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Bad girls in bloom

The Internet is buzzing about bad girls today, specifically about this review from Erika Schickel, reviewing Ellen Sussman’s anthology “Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave.”

Her opening paragraph is a masterpiece, so I will boldly waste some space here and quote it entirely:

The bad-girl racket ain’t what it used to be; time was, bad girls had sass and smarts and originality. Lately it’s been taken over by celebrities and heiresses given to sloppy behavior. Ellen Sussman’s anthology “Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave” reminds us that bad girlery is so much more than sloppy behavior and wardrobe malfunctions — it’s a calling. It’s the call to self, mixed in with the call of the wild. Anybody can get a DUI, but a real “bad girl” is a creature of passion and conviction, simmering rage and acute horniness, frailty and fearlessness.

Obviously Sussman’s collection is about a different kind of bad girl, the literary bad girl, a creature almost lost in this age of vodka and peroxide.

My favorite example is Joyce Maynard. Made famous by her 10-month affair with J.D. Salinger, Maynard proudly served as muse to the author, who seduced her with a series of letters in 1972.

Maynard put those letters up for auction in 1999, citing financial trouble. This action, seen as a crass violation of a private man, earned Maynard outrage in the press and the contempt of her peers.

Brooke Allen said she wanted revenge. Dominated and bullied by Salinger in her youth, she struck back in the most effective way she could.

A clever author could spin this as empowering, and I think that’s what Sussman has done, celebrating “bad girl” behavior as a kind of liberation.

It’s hard to see the liberation angle when you’re watching Lohan pass out in the back of an SUV or surfing pictures of Britney caught without her underwear.

Sussman’s book reminds us there are other kinds of bad girls in the world, and some of them might be worth listening to.

And as for Maynard, well, I think her only crime was being ahead of her time. Emotional exhibitionism is not new, but the Internet has taken it to new heights.

With her blog, and her memior, and her graphic descriptions of sexual and medical experiences, Joyce Maynard is not merely “Salinger’s Girlfriend” — she’s a living advertisement for Livejournal.Com.

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Written by Michael B. Duff

July 11, 2007 at 12:12

Posted in Culture

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