Friday, August 14, 2015

Novelist Jacqueline Susann was Born (August 20, 1918)

This week (August 14-20) in literary history – Richard Henry Dana set sail from Boston (August 14, 1834); Novelist Edna Ferber was born (August 15, 1887); Poet Charles Bukowski was born (August 16, 1920); George Orwell’s Animal Farm was published (August 17, 1946); Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita was published in the United States (August 18, 1958); Poet Joseph Conrad became a British citizen (August 19, 1886); Novelist Jacqueline Susann was born (August 20, 1918); Crime writer Elmore Leonard died (August 20, 2013)

Highlighted Literary Story of the Week -  

On August 20, 1918, bestselling author Jacqueline Susann was born in Philadelphia to a schoolteacher mother and artist father. Susann moved to New York in her early 20s to work as a model and actress. She played minor roles in several Broadway plays and later moved to Hollywood, with no great success.

She married Irving Mansfield in 1945, had a son, and continued pursuing her acting. She tried her hand at playwriting as well, but the show she co-authored lasted less than a month on Broadway. Her first book, Every Night, Josephine (1963), about her poodle, was a surprise bestseller. She wrote her next novel in 18 months, turning her observations of drug use, sex, and insecurity among Hollywood actresses into Valley of the Dolls (1966). The book topped the bestseller lists for 22 weeks.

Her next book, The Love Machine (1969), about the sexual antics of a shallow and powerful television executive, was a number one bestseller for five months. When her 1973 novel, Once Is Not Enough, came out, she became the first novelist to have three bestsellers on the list at once. While critics were harsh in their reviews, Susann defended her books on the grounds that she told a good story that people wanted to read. Susann died of cancer on September 21, 1974 in New York City. Her remains were cremated and disposition is uncertain. It is assumed but not confirmed that her ashes were interred with her husband at the Church of the Ascension Cemetery in Greenwich Village when he died in 1988.  

Check back every Friday for a new installment of “This Week in Literary History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Literary Legends of the British Isles (2014) and America’s Literary Legends (2015). Visit Michael’s website for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:

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