Bad Girls Go Everywhere

Feminism, you'd think, needs Helen Gurley Brown like a fish needs a bicycle. In 1970, feminists staged a sit-in at Cosmopolitan magazine -- its cover famed for "man-pleasing!" taglines and necklines -- demanding that editor-in-chief Brown use her glossy platform to advocate for women's liberation. Brown's response? To defend her magazine as "already feminist," writes women's studies prof Jennifer Scanlon in Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown. Indeed, Scanlon posits Brown -- convincingly -- as a provocative pioneer of feminism's second wave: Brown's version, "more likely practiced by single women than by housewives, and by working-class secretaries than middle-class college students, has largely been left out of established histories of postwar feminism's emergence and ascendance." Brown, for starters, did use her platform to support the ERA, abortion rights, and contraception (and tried, unsuccessfully, to make her writing lesbian-friendly). Her feminism -- its bible: Brown's blockbuster Sex and the Single Girl -- was not a vision of matriarchal utopia but a clear-eyed, if eyelash-batting, look at 1960s reality and its hostility to "career" and single women. Brown was "messianic" about work -- not men -- as the source of women's fulfillment, if not survival. Rather than overturn the sexist system, Brown said, work it. Cleavage at the office? Let's face it: that's how you keep your job. Unlike Cosmo, Bad Girls is not a breezy read, but it's a well-researched corrective that puts "lipstick feminism" in its proper, valuable -- and colorful -- place in modern women's history.

July 22: On this day in 1941, on his twelfth wedding anniversary, Eugene O'Neill presented the just-finished manuscript of Long Day's Journey into Night to his wife, Carlotta.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.


What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.