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Woman of Letters: A Life of Virginia Woolf. Oxford UniversityPress, 1978. A fresh look at the life and work of this great modernist, the first biography to take seriously her feminism

Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages. Alfred A. Knopf, 1983. A wry examination of marriage by way of some pretty strange examples.

Writing of Women: Essays in a Renaissance. Wesleyan University Press, 1985. Essays on Willa Cather, Isak Dinesen, Colette, Diane Arbus, and Margaret Bourke-White, among others.

Jazz Cleopatra: Josephine Baker in Her Time. Doubleday, 1989. A penetrating study of the African-American dancer who took Paris by storm in the 1920s, in a larger sense about performing race and femininity in different cultures.

Never Say Goodbye: Essays. Doubleday, 1991. Essays on shopping, success, vacations, humiliation, play, talking things out, sensitivity to noise, women who kill, and other subjects -- in Montaignesque bursts of association.

Editor, The Norton Book of Women's Lives. W. W. Norton & Co., 1993. A diverse selection from diaries, memoirs, and autobiographies by women from all over the world with both historical/ sociological interest and literary merit.

The Year of Reading Proust: A Memoir in Real Time. Scribner, 1997. Less about Proust than about Phyllis, but, nonetheless, tied, in a way typical of her work, to the experience of reading and written to her inner rhythm, weaving between literary and lived experience.

 The Shelf, From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading. FSG, 2015. One shelf of fiction picked more or less at random in the stacks of a New York library, provide Phyllis with years of adventure. Literary criticism detached from preconceptions about merit.


Alfred Stieglitz: Taking Pictures, Making Painters. Yale University Press (Jewish Lives), 2019. The master photographer and promoter of other artists work is rescued from the obliviating shadow of his wife, Georgia O'Keeffe, in this work of late-stage feminism, which cobntinues, indeed, the feminism of Parallel Lives in that it refrains from demonizing men while being sympathetic to women's unique struggles.




My Mother's Yiddish

Originally published in The American Scholar. 

Montaigne's Essays

Originally published in The Atlantic.

Citizen Poet

On Richard Wilbur.
Originally published in Poetry Magazine.

The Forest Dweller and the Beggar

On the stages of life in eastern and western traditions.
Originally published in The American Scholar