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The biography of Lady Caroline Blackwood includes tumultuous, highly public marriages to artist Lucian Freud and poet Robert Lowell, a reputation for eccentricity, and frequent flares of panic. At the same time, she left a body of work marked by intelligent, commanding writing that displays a singular wit and keen appreciation for the absurd. Never Breathe a Word calls attention to Blackwood's mastery, presenting a series of acclaimed short stories, both fictional and autobiographical. Selections span the entirety of her career, from her first book, For All That I Found There, to Good Night Sweet Ladies, one of her last before her death at age 64. The pieces of fiction alternate between tragic and artfully mundane, yet always share Blackwood's characteristic frankness and black humor. Three previously unpublished stories are included, featuring some of her most sympathetic heroines. Her nonfiction comprises eight evocative vignettes taken directly from her own life and set in narrative form. Beautiful, brazen, and living in "grand squalor" among ashtrays and empty liquor bottles, Blackood died in 1996 in Manhattan's Mayfair Hotel. She left behind a rare literary legacyone that testifies to our shared struggles, and to the threadbare connection between art and life.
Counterpoint; January 2010 374 pages; ISBN 9781582436869 Read online, or download in secure PDF format
Title: Never Breathe a Word
Author: Caroline Blackwood
"A selection of grimly compelling fiction and journalistic pieces by Blackwood (19311996), the Irish-born author and wife to Lucian Freud and Robert Lowell, spotlights her sharp-edged observations. Blackwood frequently excoriates her characters, starting with the painter's widow of The Interview,” who holds forth with a young journalist and reveals nasty details of her marriage. Many of the characters are outsized meanies: the greedy, tyrannical nanny in The Baby Nurse” takes over a family's London flat when the new baby arrives and the new mother sinks into a severe postpartum depression; while in Taft's Wife,” a social worker endures an excruciating, drunken lunch with a prosperous, depraved mother and the 14-year-old son she once put up for adoption. Shocking, too, is the owner of a beauty parlor in Who Needs It?” who sacks a new hire because the concentration camp numbers tattooed on her arm dampen the lighthearted mood of her salon. A handful of nonfiction pieces explore the author's childhood and the bourgeois fantasy” of the Beatniks to round out this accomplished oeuvre by an author who should be better known in the States." Publishers Weekly (starred review)