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James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon
James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon
James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon
Электронная книга787 страниц11 часов

James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon

Автор Julie Phillips

Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд

4/5

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James Tiptree, Jr. burst onto the science fiction scene in the 1970s with a series of hard-edged, provocative short stories. Hailed as a brilliant masculine writer with a deep sympathy for his female characters, he penned such classics as Houston, Houston, Do You Read? and The Women Men Don't See. For years he corresponded with Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Ursula Le Guin. No one knew his true identity. Then the cover was blown on his alter ego: A sixty-one-year-old woman named Alice Sheldon. As a child, she explored Africa with her mother. Later, made into a debutante, she eloped with one of the guests at the party. She was an artist, a chicken farmer, a World War II intelligence officer, a CIA agent, an experimental psychologist. Devoted to her second husband, she struggled with her feelings for women. In 1987, her suicide shocked friends and fans. The James Tiptree, Jr. Award was created to honor science fiction or fantasy that explores our understanding of gender. This fascinating biography by Julie Phillips, ten years in the making, is based on extensive research, exclusive interviews, and full access to Alice Sheldon's papers.
ЯзыкEnglish
ИздательMacmillan Publishers
Дата выпуска6 янв. 2015 г.
ISBN9781466889118
James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon
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Автор

Julie Phillips

Julie Phillips is a journalist who has written on film, books, feminism, and cultural politics. James Tiptree, Jr. is her first book. She lives in Amsterdam, Holland.

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Рейтинг: 4.037267080745342 из 5 звезд
4/5

161 оценка16 отзывов

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  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
    4/5
    “What I do with emotion is not, strictly, to ‘bottle it up.’ I parcel it out. I make it drive me in work; I try to use it to understand the world; I occasionally try to form or express little bits in objective writing or drawing; I try to stay out of situations which encourage it; I take it out in physical exertion – and what still can’t be handled I do ‘bottle up’ and sit on. What else can one do? […]”Alice Sheldon in “James Tiptree, Jr. - The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon” by Julie PhillipsBiographies have traditionally had a complex relationship with "truth." Hesketh Pearson's brilliantly readable mid-twentieth-century biographies favour "good stories" over the boring facts. Julie Phillips didn’t have to tackle one of the most difficult things in writing a biography: correct the distortions and myths in previous biographies. It was all a blank sheet. Phillips seems to favour the "bag of facts" approach to biography which has been gaining favour but this too has its problems – notably, that reading such a book tends to be a chore, not a pleasure. The challenge, I think, is to keep a balance between telling the story and being rigorously, “checkably” factual.When it comes to autobiographies, you sit down with your blank sheet of A4 and start sucking your pencil (or your mouse), desperate for inspiration; isn't the mining of your own life likely to be more quickly and readily available at all hours of day and night and perhaps require less effort than having to pass what you have learned of the nature and life of other people through a process of synthesis and precis and imaginative marshalling? There may also be the thought that the hanging out of dirty linen (linen from best Irish flax?) on a public washing line may be helpful to one's own bruised psyche. Though full disclosure is very fashionable these days, of course, I'm not sure this is necessarily therapeutic. This also applies to biographies. Just as in so many films a scene airing much emotion is accompanied by a sly, tinkling, solo piano as the filmmakers slip into telling-you-what-to-feel mode. Perhaps we can make a distinction between a case where a writer dishes the dirt on him/herself, with little collateral damage caused, and a case where Big Bertha transmogrifies into a cluster bomb and the havoc spreads inexorably from the centre, like a pebble chucked into the Tralee Ship Canal outside Blennerville.Tiptree/Sheldon was literally a Feminist-in-Disguise for generations. I'd agree she doesn't fit the current shrill, superficial version of feminism that is sometimes just online shaming (and not all that progressive often) but I'd wager she's going to have a lot more credibility as a feminist in 100 years’ time and all the twitter "feminists" will be forgotten along with the motherhood-on-a-pedestal Victorians, the racist anti-Union feminists of the early 1900s and the anti-sex pro-Reagan 1980s groups. Feminism is a very old and long tradition. I think he/she had been thinking about it lucidly for a lot longer than most all of us. Too bad his/her story ended the way it did. We may never know what it really happened and what made him/her do it.Without delving much deeper into the book, I would say the aim of any writer is to publish something that sells. In the book blogosphere, I meet lots of people who think they can write, including two or three who think they can write so well, that they want to charge people to listen to their advice on what these people should be reading. They call themselves bibliotherapists. I can't tell you how desperate I am to tell them that they are living in cloud cuckoo land and that the country is full of bin men, shop assistants and dog walkers who are in every way equal, but haven't got their brass necks. I imagine a lot of writers who pick an unusual subject - like writing about a writer such as Tiptree - have had enough of emptying bins or walking dogs. That also goes for Biographers.As one alien said to another after visiting earth, 'What do you think?' The other alien replied: 'Well the ones with the intelligence seem ok, but I'm not sure about the ones with the testicles.', and this coming from a Sapiens belonging to the latter; Tiptree belonged to the former.NB: Must-read for those of you who love SF-of-a-different-Persuasion. Unmissable as well because of the letters between Tiptree/Sheldon and some other SF writers, namely Philip K. Dick, Joanna Russ, and Ursula K. Le Guin.A coda:“’And then about three o’clock in the morning Mrs. Sheldon called me back and told me that she had actually killed Mr. Sheldon. I remember she said, ‘Jim, I slain Ting by own hand and I’m about to take my own life, and for God’s sake don’t call the police, to give me time to do what I have to do here.’ And by this point there was nothing I could do. I did call the police, and they went over and found that both of them were dead.’”John Morrison in ““James Tiptree, Jr. - The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon” by Julie PhillipsTiptree/Sheldon was true to herself to the end of her days. Big testicles. What a woman! My kind of SF.SF = Speculative Fiction.
  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
    4/5
    Fascinating biography of James Tiptree, Jr. aka Alice Sheldon, whose colorful life and inscrutable, gender-obscuring career as an award-winning SF author, and finally tragic suicide give an incredible amount of insight into her work. Very readable and interesting bio.
  • Рейтинг: 3 из 5 звезд
    3/5
    I can't remember if I started reading Tiptree's bizarre but often good for a mindf**k stories before I knew that she had been outed as a female writer. This biography is a fascinating tour through her upper-class explorer childhood, to stints as a WAC to working at the CIA. Finally she falls into putting her tortured psyche into stories and the literary friendships with many famous figures from the SF world of the 60s and 70s. It does get bogged down at times with the personality analysis, by the author and the subject, but it was overall a good read for a biography.
  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    5/5
    I first found out about Julie Phillips biography James Tiptree Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon when I was browsing the New York Times one morning over breakfast. The review was positive, but more importantly (for me, anyways) this was the first time I had even heard of Tiptree. I was somewhat astounded to discover an important, groundbreaking, and award-winning author of science fiction that I knew literally nothing about. Soon after reading the article I came across for the first time the Tiptree Award, which is given to science fiction and fantasy works "that expand or explore our understanding of gender." This piqued my interest even further and so I picked up a copy of the book even though it was about a year and a half before I actually got around to reading it.Alice Bradley Davey Sheldon, a native of Chicago, grew up traveling the world. Over the course of her life she played many different roles: loyal daughter, artist, army officer, CIA agent, devoted wife, academic. But most famous was her persona as a writer--James Tiptree, Jr. A secretive man who wrote brilliant science fiction and whose writing was so "masculine" that for nearly a decade very few even suspected that he was really a woman. Phillips biography is complete and detailed in telling the story of the life and death of this incredible and complex individual.It is obvious that Phillips has done her research. She conducted interviews, read correspondence, pursued both primary and secondary sources, and familiarized herself with the work of Tiptree and Sheldon. Everything is documented and she often lets the materials speak for themselves, extensively quoting primary sources and incorporating interpretations of the fictional writings flawlessly into the text in a way to shed light on the reality of Sheldon's life. Also included is a detailed index, a bibliography, and an extraordinarily helpful guide to Tiptree's and Sheldon's publication history.The book is actually much longer than it first appears; both the print and the margins are small. But while the length is noticeable, Phillips' writing is immensely readable. It is a biography, and obviously not a novel, but I was compelled to keep reading to see "what happens next." Two things in particular struck me as being especially well done (besides the fantastic research): One, the inclusion of years in the chapter titles helps tremendously in keeping the timeline straight; and, two, the use of names and pronouns when referring to the various aspects of Sheldon's identity help clarify and situate the context of the subjects being addressed.I see a lot of myself in Alli Sheldon, so this book holds additional meaning for me. I have never read any of Tiptree's work before but am definitely more than interested to now. Unfortunately, most if not all of it is out of print with only sporadic resurgences. Luckily, I stumbled (quite accidentally) across a beautiful copy of Her Smoke Rose Up Forever (an illustrated "best of" collection that Sheldon helped to select) at a local used book store. While Sheldon's story will particularly interest those familiar with science fiction, anyone who enjoys reading biographies will appreciate this expertly executed one. Phillips has not only written a brilliant and well researched biography, but has also provided an intense examination of gender and feminism in science fiction, female writers, and, most importantly, personal identity.Experiments in Reading
  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
    4/5
    James Tiptree, Jr. wrote some truly astonishing science fiction stories, works that were bleak, poetic, and beautiful, filled with themes of love and death, sex and gender, power and empathy, and twin longings for the alien and for home. He was also a prolific letter-writer, forming many long-distance friendships in the SF community... and a notorious recluse who would never agree to meet anyone in person or even talk on the phone. There were many rumors about his true identity, including one that he was so secretive because he worked for the CIA. When Tiptree's secret finally came out -- that "he" was, in fact, a woman named Alice Sheldon -- it was to a chorus of both shocked surprise and "Aha, I knew it!"Sheldon's life was a complex and fascinating one, from accompanying her famous explorer parents on their African expeditions as a small child, to the murder-suicide that finally ended her life. At various points, she was a painter, an army officer, a psychological researcher, and the co-runner of a chicken hatchery. Oh, and yes, she did in fact also work for the CIA.This biography covers all of that, but its main focus is Sheldon's psychology, and on the matters that obsessed and troubled her and found reflection in her work. Including, most particularly, the question, as author Julie Phillips puts it, of "what is a woman and am I one." It's a question she never did seem to unravel, even with the assistance of a male alter ego. Which seems like no surprise at all to me, being as it is, a tangled, thorny complicated mess of social expectation, biology, sexuality, personal identity, and power dynamics. Hell, I can't unravel it, either, and I was born many decades later into a world where the expectations and the limits placed on women were already significantly changing.Anyway. This is an interesting, thoughtful, and thought-provoking bio, and I do recommended it to those interested in Sheldon's life and work.
  • Рейтинг: 3 из 5 звезд
    3/5
    (3.5 stars)

    Without a doubt, this book will stand as the definitive biography of James Tiptoe, Jr./Alice Sheldon. It covers Alli/Tip's life in such detail, punctuated with journal entries and correspondence, that one could hardly wish more detail . . .

    Except, to my mind, in one area. Alli makes clear she had great struggles with her mother, but I never got why her struggles were as great as they were. Her mother did not abuse her, either physically or psychologically. Was it simply because her mother was overbearing? That she had different expectations for her daughter than Alli had for herself? That her mother, by virtue of the fact that she was quite an honored public personage while Alli was growing up, simply cast a shadow Alli found it difficult to escape? There are hints to all these things, but for the struggles Alli endured (her mother seemed supportive of most any direction Alli wanted to go) these issues seem rather trivial.

    Anyway, Alice Sheldon was an interesting character who wrestled with identity issues all her life. Perhaps it could only have been someone so uncertain of her identity that could launch an alter ego for herself in the form of James Tiptree, Jr. While many an author adopts a non de plume, for Alli the adoption of the Tiptoe identity was so much more. It became something to hide behind, to entrust her creativity to, and to guard jealously, so that when the truth about the mysterious James Tiptree finally became known, it nearly undid her.

    In most cases, I could have just done with a little less detail.
  • Рейтинг: 5 из 5 звезд
    5/5
    It has long been tradition in many literary genres – science fiction and the “western” primary among modern ones – that female writers would publis