'This last great work by one of the century’s great writers is a large and original novel of betrayal and self-delusion, madness and consuming passions, that recreates to chilling effect the political turbulence of the American Left and the clamor and menace of the McCarthy Right. Not since her classic The Man Who Loved Children has Stead fashioned such willful and memorable characters as Emily Wilks and Stephen Howard. Emily is a woman of enormous but mercurial enthusiasms whose unflagging ebullience masks a darkness that will lead to disaster. Stephen—handsome, clever, spoiled—is a dangerous dreamer, an upper-class dropout playing at radical politics. Together, they mirror the times through which they live: the heady revolutionary fervor of the Depression, the short collaborative effort of wartime America, the fractiousness of the Cold War years.' (Publication summary)
'Although Christina Stead is best known for the mid-century masterpiece set in Washington D.C. and Baltimore, The Man Who Loved Children, it was not her only work about the America. Five of Christina Stead’s mid-career novels deal with the United States, capturing and critiquing American life with characteristic sharpness and originality.
'In this examination of Stead’s American work, Fiona Morrison explores Stead’s profound engagement with American politics and culture and their influence on her “restlessly experimental” style. Through the turbulent political and artistic debates of the 1930s, the Second World War, and the emergence of McCarthyism, the “matter” of America provoked Stead to continue to create new ways of writing about politics, gender and modernity.
'This is the first critical study to focus on Stead’s time in America and its influence on her writing. Morrison argues compellingly that Stead’s American novels “reveal the work of the greatest political woman writer of the mid twentieth century”, and that Stead’s account of American ideology and national identity remains extraordinarily prescient, even today.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
'This essay examines some recent attempts to devise a new critical approach to Stead’s fiction which can encompass both the socialism she endorsed and the feminism she rejected, and asks how these approaches attempt to account for the affective as well as the intellectual impact of politics in Stead’s novels, in particular Cotters’ England and I’m Dying Laughing.'
'The principal subject of the novel Stead spent much of her later years working on, published after her death, I'm Dying Laughing, is marked by the crisis of the Western left. As the son of one committed leftist and a nephew of another, and as someone who in his schooling and acculturation was highly exposed to the American left of the 1970s, I sensed the same crisis so seismically registered by Stead’s novel: of incongruity between aspirations and realities, of a distance between the proclaimed populism of the left and its practical elitism, and an odd disjuncture between the family worlds of these leftists and their political philosophies. In this paper, I consider a number of the ways in which Stead’s novel refracts and engages with the politics of mid-century American leftism and communism, its intellectual culture and ideology, issues that lie at the heart of Stead’s novel even as it deals with a woman, Emily Wilkes Howard, who, as a wife, as a mother and surrogate mother, as a writer, and as a political entity, ends up being unable to reconcile these contradictions.'