Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Biography: Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown by Jennifer Scanlon

If Bad Girls Go Everywhere (Oxford University Press) is not quite the sexy tell-all of author and journalist Helen Gurley Brown’s life that the cover might hint at, in some ways, it is a great deal more. Right away, it should be understood that author Jennifer Scanlon is an academic. A Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at Bowdoin College, she’s an award-winning teacher and scholar as well as the author of books with titles like Significant Contemporary American Feminists and The Gender and Consumer Culture Reader.

In some ways this authorship -- as well as Scanlon’s academia informed approach to the former Cosmo editor’s life -- makes Bad Girls Go Everywhere the definitive work on Gurley Brown. One can not imagine anyone exceeding it. Thirty-four pages of footnotes and a very good index tell that story.

All of that said, even though the book lacks the puerile tone and surface facts of biographies written with a more popular readership in mind, Bad Girls Go Everywhere is a very interesting book. Even without the author’s obvious passion and knowledge of her subject, Gurley Brown’s life provides plenty of fuel for a well-stuffed biography. Most surprising of all -- at least, for this reader -- was the fact that, despite her reputation as a tough-as-nails professional women who never ate enough, Gurley Brown emerges Scanlon’s portraiture as a second wave feminist. Someone whose contributions to the women’s movement and to her gender’s real-world emancipation are perhaps too great to calculate.

Other books on 87-year-old Helen Gurley Brown’s life may well emerge over the years, but I imagine Bad Girls Go Everywhere will remain the definitive record of this remarkable journalist’s life.

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Blogger Voix said...

Yum! Can't wait to read it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 4:14:00 AM PDT  

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