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Smith, Stevie

days crying childhood eight

(British, 1902–71)

Stevie Smith grew up in Palmers Green, London, and lived there with her beloved aunt for most of her life. She worked as a secretary and freelance writer and broadcaster, and is known for her poetry, of which she published eight volumes, many illustrated by her own drawings. Her novels are all autobiographical, and the first, Novel on Yellow Paper (1936) is by far the best known. It's narrated in the first person by Pompey Casmilus, who lives with her darling Auntie Lion, and is an outpouring of her thoughts and feelings about the world around her—about fear, love, death, marriage, religion, sex, anti-Semitism; about her friends and lovers and her childhood. To list the topics cannot begin to capture the delicious flavour, which is whimsical, poetic, self-deprecatingly (or at times, mercilessly) humorous, and often absurd: ‘How richly compostly loamishly sad were those Victorian days, with a sadness not nerve-irritating like we have today … These childhood impressions make a difference as the psychoanalysts charge a pound an hour for saying.’ Or: ‘When I was eight years old I went away from my parents to a convalescent home, where I was so proud and so furious to be separated from my mother I would not eat, and I would not stop crying, I thought: If I go on crying long enough I shall die. But after crying days and days I was still alive, so then I at once became rather cynical’

Dorothy Parker, James Thurber, E. M. Delafield  JR

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