UNLIKE older forms of “woman’s fiction,” written not only by and about but primarily for women, a new kind of woman’s novel that has been appearing with increasing frequency in recent years, avowedly “feminist” in orientation, has aspired to and won a place for itself in the literary mainstream. These novels, executed in different styles and with varying degrees of success, have an essential quality in common: all are investigations of the life of a single heroine who is portrayed as “representative” of her sex, and whose experiences are meant to illuminate the shared lot of women in a society shaped and controlled by men.
Published in 1967, Sue Kaufman’s Diary of a Mad Housewife was among the first, and remains among the most popular, of the new feminist novels. Like her most recent novel, Falling Bodies, it is set in neurotic, upper-middle-class Manhattan-a literary landscape that by now must seem home territory to readers of contemporary American fiction. Mrs. Kaufman’s novels cast a censorious eye on what is meant to seem the deadly farce of life in affluent, professional, urban America; with an air of the expose, they tell tales of what really goes on behind the well-groomed facades of Central Park West and the upper East Side, zeroing in especially on the conventions of marriage and family-institutions over which Mrs. Kaufman seems finally to throw up her hands in despair.
About the Author