May Sarton: A Biography
Phillips, Peri, Herizons
MAY SARTON: A BIOGRAPHY
BY MARGOT PETERS
ALFRED A. KNOPF 1996
We are warned early in Margot Peters' cautionary biography of feminist poet, novelist and journalist May Sarton that her subject's real life, "as opposed to the myth she created, was turbulent, guiltridden, full of pain and disappointment-and just plain messy."
It is true that May Sarton lived her life under duress. From her earliest days, relationships were difficult for her: first with parents unable to give her adequate love and attention, then in the volatile world of theatre in the 1930s, next with glamourous writers such as Virginia Woolf and Louise Bogan, who invited her to the threshold of their lives but never fully accepted her, but most of all with the many women with whom she was passionately involved, and with the fans who demanded too much of her.
What Peters' unsympathetic assessment of Sarton lacks is the nuance she could have provided if she had chosen to present both the light and dark sides of her subject. No doubt the host of accusations of personal shortcomings is true. But surely, in her writing, Sarton was not simply creating a myth about herself (as writers do) but also was revealing an equally valid best side, the one she wished could have been in ascendence throughout her life. Unfortunately, in this biography, we have only a relentless documenting of every personal defect. …