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I read widely and in most genres but romance and westerns. Here you'll find my reviews since 2007, with a few reviews of previously read books as well.


In 2012, I completed an "authors of the world" challenge, reading a book for every country (and a few other entities) by someone who'd lived there for at least two years. I expect to tag these books by challenge and country in the near future. I'm still refining my list by adding books that better meet my challenge criteria.

James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon - Julie Phillips A fascinating biography of Alice Sheldon, better known as award-winning science fiction author James Tiptree, Jr. Phillips gives us a great deal of detail but the narrative does not bog down; though most people picking up the book know that Tiptree's identity was eventually revealed, and of her life's distressing ending, I doubt most people knew that she went to Africa as a child, or that she was a talented artist who illustrated two of her mother's books and had an illustration published in The New Yorker. Phillips provides copious life details, tracing Sheldon's moves, careers, and relationships over time. Sheldon's correspondence with Harlan Ellison, Barry Malzberg, Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, and others is a great delight to read. Phillips has chosen her excerpts judiciously.Most interesting is Sheldon's psychological state, which seems rarely to have been good. I would have liked to know even more about this; at points this compelling information is presented in a flat, superficial way. This may reflect the fact that many of Phillips' informants are still living and may not have shared some information or given consent to publish. It is quite evident that Sheldon's use of a male pseudonym goes beyond convenience or privacy and has greater symbolic resonance in the context of her many issues and concerns related to sexual identity and gender.Phillips occasionally speculates about Sheldon's psyche. As a psychologist, I can't diagnose from afar. However, I can wonder about a person's life narrative. Based on what Phillips has provided, I don't think the diagnosis of cyclothymia (given by a therapist at some point in Sheldon's life) is a sufficient description of her psychological and interpersonal difficulties. I'm also not sure whether it could be accurately diagnosed given her amphetamine abuse. Sheldon was quite terrified at a number of times during her family's African sojourns. Her mother was flirtatious and at at least one point made a sexual overture to her then-adolescent daughter (reminiscent of Anne Sexton's daughter's description of Anne's behavior toward her). Sheldon is severely depressed and often suicidal, anxious, self-doubting, reckless, conflicted about sexuality, and drawn to abusing substances. Though expressing discontent with it, she manages to spend much of her life in a sexless marriage. Her behavior and emotions often edge into the Borderline Personality Disorder spectrum. For these reasons, I wonder if something sexually traumatic happened to her as a child, either in Africa or within her family of origin. My non-diagnostic speculation is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. This is a better fit than cyclothymia and would, if true, contribute to a more coherent understanding of Sheldon's pervasive discomfort and unhappiness.