“Out of sync with their time, yet deeply, longingly feminine, neither knew how to be a woman.” I have been fussing over this sentence from Susan Hertog’s biography of two remarkable writers, Dangerous Ambition: Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson, for weeks now. Hertog is obviously not referring to how West and Thompson felt about themselves. She is instead raining down judgment from above. First came my kneejerk feminist response: Both women had unhappy marriages and serious ambivalence regarding motherhood, but when male writers disappear on their children or marry the wrong people, we don’t say they have failed as men. Then came my psychoanalytic parsing of the text, trying to glean Hertog’s particular issues with mothering and career and how they might skew her conclusions. Did Hertog’s mother miss important childhood milestones in her daughter’s life because she was working? None of my business, but it’s my typical irrational response… More…