The Last Days of Katherine Mansfield

MansfieldWebPierce Butler at Commonweal:

Katherine Mansfield—writer of short stories, friend and literary compatriot of Virginia Woolf and D. H. Lawrence—had a gift for arousing strong opinions. The reckless abandon with which Mans-field threw herself into sexual relationships with both men and women, and the acerbity of her tongue and pen, could provoke critics, family, and friends, not to mention her enemies. Critical estimates of Mansfield’s work—fewer than one hundred stories, an oeuvre curtailed by her premature death from tuberculosis at the age of thirty-four—have risen and fallen over the decades. Her stories fall into two categories: those set in the New Zealand of her childhood that contrast a corrupt adult world with the purity of the child’s experience; and those set elsewhere, frequently peopled by lonely and fearful young women whose attempts to confront their demons seem doomed to failure. Taken as a whole, the stories present a restless sensibility longing for the idyll of childhood and vainly seeking solace and security in adult love relationships.

Mansfield was a brilliant conversationalist who delighted in malicious wit, a writer with an exquisite sense of form who sometimes sacrificed honesty for aesthetic effect, and a freethinking woman whose bold exploration of her sexuality resulted in a number of liaisons that even her bohemian circle regarded as indiscreet. She found herself caught between the provincial Victorian values of her upbringing and a metropolitan world of literary self-expression in which art pointed the way to a thrilling new life.

more here.