Monday, November 06, 2006

I met Jacy Farrow.

No, not Cybill Shepherd--not the blonde "teen queen" straight out of the Last Picture Show, but the real woman McMurtry modeled her on: Ceil Cleveland. I loved Cleveland's own memoir, Whatever Happened to Jacy Farrow?, the first-person story of growing up smart and pretty in a time and place when pretty seemed to trump all--but using her smarts to make her way in the world as university profesor and writer. From the prologue:

My mother played the patriarchal game, as did the girls of Jacy's era, because it was the only game in town. Some of us are still playing it. I finally got fed up with it after a few decades, caused pain and angst to everyone who loved me, and turned my life around.

How ghastly that was; how sweet it is.

Perhaps it is, as author and scholar Carolyn Heilbrun has suggested, that only women who played the men's game and won a self anyway have the courage to face the pain bought by telling their own stories straight. And maybe only women of a certain age, say, in their fifties, can stop being what she calls "female impersonators" and can now do what they might have done much earlier had they not been born hostages to their gender.

In 1997 when the book was published she was vice president for university affairs at SUNY Stony Brook.

It was a thrill to meet her at a book reading at the Regulator in Durham yesterday, not to mention a surprise. We both were there to hear journalist Maya McPherson talk about her book All Governments Lie: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.F. Stone, which was fascinating. But I would have driven at least to Durham to meet Ceil Cleveland. She and her husband moved to Durham a couple of years ago.

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