Saturday, January 06, 2007

Tillie Olsen

The best obituary of Tillie Olsen that I have read: Tillie Olsen, 1913-2007 by John Leonard in The Nation online. Here is a sentence about John Leonard's introduction to Olsen and others in the 60s that I view as another rereading list:
There was a lot of this music around in the early '60s, especially at Pacifica radio, where so many of us went instead of graduate school to play with our politics and microphones, such a plenitude we took for granted, so many books so splendid, so savage and so nourishing, that they seemed to fall from some giant banyan--a Tin Drum and a Golden Notebook, a Catch-22 and The Fire Next Time, Flannery O'Connor and Chinua Achebe, Herzog and V--and we'd never again go hungry for meaning.

The New York Times was more informative (and conventional):
A daughter of immigrants and a working mother starved for time to write, Ms. Olsen drew from her personal experiences to create a small but influential body of work. Her first published book, “Tell Me a Riddle” (1961), contained a short story, “I Stand Here Ironing,” in which the narrator painfully recounts her difficult relationship with her daughter and the frustrations of motherhood and poverty.
See: Tillie Olsen, Feminist Writer, Dies at 94 Tillie Olsen, Feminist Writer, Dies at 94 By JULIE BOSMAN -- Published: January 3, 2007

And from the Washington Post, a summary of her fascinating biography:

Tillie Lerner was born Jan. 14, 1912, on a tenant farm near Wahoo, Neb., the second of six children of Russian-Jewish immigrants who had fled their homeland after being involved in the failed 1905 revolution. Ms. Olsen was strongly influenced by her parents' radical leanings and by Midwestern farm life. "I learned a lot being around cows," she recalled in 2002. "It seemed to me they were so damned patient."

She dropped out of high school in Omaha after the 11th grade and began her long succession of dead-end jobs. "Public libraries were my sustenance and my college," she wrote.

An activist and a member of the Young Communist League, she went to jail for organizing packinghouse workers in the Midwest. She began "Yonnondio" while recovering from pleurisy and tuberculosis contracted because of poor ventilation in the tie factory where she worked. -- "Working-Class Fiction Writer Tillie Olsen, 94." By Joe Holley, Washington Post, Thursday, January 4, 2007.

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