Letty Fox: Her Luck, Christina Stead

ANZLitLovers Christina Stead Week Nov 14-20 2016

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The copy of Letty Fox I have is not that pictured above but one from Imprint (A&R) in 1991 with an Introduction by Susan Sheridan which begins:

Letty Fox: Her Luck (1946) is the first of a trio of satirical novels which Christina Stead wrote about the sexual and political lives of New Yorkers as she had observed them while living there before and during the Second World War.

Without further ado, here is the first paragraph (a review will take much longer, sorry).

“One hot night last spring, after waiting fruitlessly for a call from my then lover, with whom I had quarreled the same afternoon, and finding one of my black moods on me, I flung out of my lonely room on the ninth floor (unlucky number) in a hotel in lower Fifth Avenue and rushed into the streets of the Village, feeling bad. My first thought was, at any cost, to get company for the evening. In general, things were bad with me; I was in low water financially and had nothing but married men as companions. My debts were nearly six hundred dollars, not counting my taxes in arrears. I had already visited the tax inspector twice and promised to pay in installments when I had money in the bank. I had told him that I was earning my own living, with no resources, separated from my family, and that though my weekly pay was good, that is sixty-five dollars, I needed that and more to live. All this was true. I now had by good fortune, about seventy dollars in the bank, but this was only because a certain man had given me a handsome present (the only handsome present I ever got, in fact); and this money I badly needed for clothes, for moving, and for petty cash. During the war, I had got used to taking a taxi to work. Being out always late at night, I was sluggish in the morning; and being a great worker at the office, I was behindhand for my evening dates. Beyond such petty expenses, I needed at least two hundred and fifty dollars for a new coat. My fur coat, got from my mother, and my dinner dress, got from my grandmother, were things of the past and things with a past, mere rags and too well known to all my friends. There was no end to what I needed. My twenty-fourth birthday was just gone, and I had spent two hours this same evening ruminating upon all my love affairs which had sunk ingloriously into the past, along with my shrunken and worn outfits. Most of these affairs had been promising enough. Why had they failed? (Or I failed?) Partly, because my men, at least during the war years, had been flighty, spoiled officers in the armed services, in and out of town, looking for a good-timer by the night, the week or the month; and if not these young officers, then my escorts were floaters of another sort, middle-aged, married civilians, journalists, economic advisers, representatives of foreign governments or my own bosses, office managers, chiefs, owners. But my failure was, too, because I had no appartment to which to take them. How easy for them to find it inconvenient to visit me at my hotel, or for me to visit them at theirs when they were dubious or cool. It seemed to me that night that a room of my own was what I principally lacked.

Christina Stead, Letty Fox: Her Luck, First pub. Harcourt Brace, New York, 1946. My edition: Imprint, Sydney, 1991. Introduction by Susan Sheridan, Women’s Studies, Flinders University, 1990

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7 thoughts on “Letty Fox: Her Luck, Christina Stead

  1. Thanks for this contribution to Christina Stead Week, you really are a legend! I love the power of these opening lines and I know they’ve worked on me, I’m going to get a copy of this one for sure:0

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  2. Yes. Another on the list. Seven Poor Men third reading and once again am astounding by her writing. Reading I’m Dying Laughing very slowly. I still don’t think her political diatribes are given enough attention. They are just marvellous in both these novels. In fact my summer will be spent reading all of her work; those I have already read and the few that I’ve still to read. Thanks again for this discussion for there are so few that seem willing to take on the commitment(it is a commitment) of her books which are a treasure trove of pleasure and scholarship that is the result of extensive reading on Christina’s part along with the advantage that the lifelong relationship that William Blake brought into her life.

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    • That’s interesting about a third reading. I’ve read quite a few Christina Steads but reading them again and writing these reviews has made me much more conscious of the excellence of her writing and also of what appears to be a lifelong commitment to socialism. I hope that you will post a review of I’m Dying Laughing and link it to Lisa’s site, which I think will prove a very useful resource. Stead had IDL on the go for many years. I think it was important to her, and I hope I get to it soon (I’m starting at the other end so to speak with The Salzburg Tales).

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