McCarthy Iconoclast


Mary McCarthy was never afraid of a fight: as a caustic critic in the 1930s for New York's revolutionary Partisan Review, or a best-selling satirist with The Group in 1963: from her unwavering opposition to the Vietnam war, to her notorious 'slandering' of the Oscar winning playwright, Lillian Hellman, in 1979 ("every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'"), contrary  Mary McCarthy wrote and spoke dangerously. Controversial and dissenting to the last, her professional career was matched only by the drama of her private life, from childhood privilege, tragedy and abuse, to four marriages and numerous lovers. "It was all getting rather alarming. I didn't think of myself as promiscuous. Maybe no-one does."


It was McCarthy's feminist fiction from the 1940s- way ahead of its time- that first inspired me, initially, as a post graduate student, to interview her in Paris in 1980; then to write about her,  most recently for Mary McCarthy's Centenary blog; and, finally, to produce McCarthy Iconoclast, a screen print celebration of her life and work. McCarthy's dangerous writing is itself in danger of being forgotten: I want to share my vision of the bloody-minded, contradictory, multi-faceted McCarthy, to pull her reputation back, kicking and screaming, from the brink of a fate worse than death - conformity.