A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman
by Alice Kessler-Harris
Bloomsbury, $39.99 hb, 439 pp, 9781596913639
Why, Alice Kessler-Harris’s friends kept asking her, are you writing a biography of Lillian Hellman – a good question of one of the world’s leading historians of women and work, who has just stepped down as president of the American Historical Association. If Hellman is remembered at all today, it is as a mediocre playwright, an ugly, foul-mouthed harridan whose luxurious comforts were provided by ill-treated employees, a blind supporter of an evil political system – and, above all, as a liar and thief who appropriated someone else’s life to make her own seem more heroic.