Don’t you hate it when someone [who is more talented than you] comes up with an idea that you know you could have done something great with [though probably not as great as they thing they did with it because they are more talented than you] but they came up with it first? This is just like the time Kanye released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy so I had to shelve my own album-length contemplation of black male angst. Megan Mayhew Bergman’s decision to write a collection of short stories about women who were on the edge of [capital I] Importance feels like that to me.
The collection, a blend between the deep research Bergman did into the real lives of these real women and her imaginative take on the subversive, feminist narrative of these characters, is a sometimes triumphant, usually tragic take on the role of the woman in America in the years surrounding the second World War.
If the collection weren’t quite so well researched it wouldn’t be as effective but the fact that these women, these sisters, daughters, lovers, of people who were [capital I] Important, really existed and were really forgotten makes their stories all the more powerful. Bergman found them in the “director’s cuts,” of history books – in the stuff no one really pays attention to but someone cared enough to write down. Mentions of Dolly Wilde in uncle Oscar’s biography. Letters from Allegra in Lord Byron’s collections. Like the preamble to the the tits to afros celebration that is American Hustle warns: some of this actually happened.
If the collection weren’t quite so well written it wouldn’t be as effective. But Bergman blends the fact and the fiction like an expert and makes these lives all seem too fantastical to be real. A less-skilled writer would have tacked on the history, used it to lecture the reader rather than rather than to enhance the story. Bergman’s collection will make you think about what it means to be a woman, what it means to be a woman, and what it means to live a big life, even if no one is paying attention.