Doomed love list at The Week

In honor of the appearance of Love is a Four-Letter Word,* The Week invited me to contribute this week’s “best books” list.

It’s devoted to “doomed love,” and a reader says it’s available now.

Instead of focusing on autobiographical stories, I chose first-person works of fiction** that (mostly) take the form of confessions: Lolita, Les Liaisons dangereuses, The Black Prince, The Book of Night Women, The End of the Affair, and My Name Is Rose, “in which the narrator strives in a frank, unsentimental journal to reconcile her two selves: the dutiful wife and the yearning, philandering creative soul.”

My Name is Rose was written by Theodora Keogh, who, despite being wildly talented, and the granddaughter and namesake of Theodore Roosevelt, died in obscurity last year — nearly a half-century after (apparently) laying down her pen.

It was difficult to choose between My Name is Rose and The Tattooed Heart (which Brooks Peters aptly describes as a “marvelously atmospheric novel about a young boy and girl living in the Hamptons. Abandoned by their high-flying, distracted parents, they create their own universe amid the sand dunes and privet hedges of the East End”); The Double Door was also a possibility. But the biting, relentlessly frank Rose is my favorite of Keogh’s novels. I’ll have to explain why some other time.

The image above is a caricature of the author, by her then-husband Tom Keogh, that appeared with seven more of his drawings in the very first issue of The Paris Review, in 1953. You can see another one bleeding through slightly from the next page.

Many thanks to Paris Review Managing Editor Caitlin Roper, who verified the sketch’s existence and scanned it for me.

* There’s more good press for the anthology in Bookpage, Elle, and The Wall Street Journal. Apparently it’s also received positive mentions in Spin, Vanity Fair, and Real Simple. The Charlotte Observer admires the contribution from editor Michael Taeckens, who elsewhere speaks with Art Taylor. Next week D.E. Rasso, Wendy McClure, Michael, and I will guest-post at the Penguin blog.

** Even this category was almost overwhelmingly broad. I excluded Rhys and Ford because I’ve already said and thought so much about them lately; other possibilities were omitted for equally arbitrary reasons.


Newsletter Signup

Subscribe to my free newsletter, Ancestor Trouble.


You might want to subscribe to my free Substack newsletter, Ancestor Trouble, if the name makes intuitive sense to you.