Obituary Note: Marion Meade

Marion Meade

Marion Meade, the biographer and feminist, died December 29 at age 88 from complications of Covid.

Meade was best known for her 1987 biography of Dorothy Parker, What Fresh Hell Is This?, which helped, along with the 1994 film Mrs. Parker and Her Vicious Circle, to create a resurgence of interest in Parker. Meade edited a new edition of The Portable Dorothy Parker and a collection of Parker's poetry as well as wrote introductions to several other Parker books.

After earning a Master's at Columbia Journalism School, Meade began her career as an investigative journalist, a helpful background for a biographer, working on staff and as a freelancer, contributing pieces to the New York Times, the Nation, the Village Voice and McCall's.

In the late 1960s and '70s she became involved in the feminist movement, which led to her first book, in 1973, called Bitching, and her first biography, in 1976, Free Woman: The Life and Times of Victoria Woodhull. She then wrote Eleanor of Aquitaine, followed by two novels also set in medieval times, Sybille and Stealing Heaven: The Love Story of Heloise and Abelard.

In 2004, Meade published Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin, a group portrait of four literary 1920s women--Parker, Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna Ferber and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Meade also focused in some of her work on film, with biographies of Buster Keaton (1994) and Woody Allen (2000). Her last major work was Lonelyhearts: The Screwball World of Nathanael West and Eileen McKinney, a joint biography of Nathanael West, the writer of The Day of the Locusts and Miss Lonelyhearts, and his wife, the model for the classic 1938 novel about two young women in Greenwich Village, My Sister Eileen.

Meade called biography "a thankless task," noting in 2006 that "biography has changed in the last 20 years. It was a kind of white glove type of writing; now it's 'anything goes.' "

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