First novel by Mary Mccarthy. Originally published as six separate short stories, the novel appeared in 1942. Protagonist Margaret Sargent, a young student at a women’s college, “a princess among the trolls,” is based upon the author herself. The stories are barely disguised and acutely observed accounts of the author’s own years as a young New Yorker and describe the failure of a marriage, random love affairs, and a passing flirtation with Trotskyism. Margaret’s search for personal identity and her need for honesty and for distinguishing appearance from reality are the themes of the stories.
“He had the true American taste for argument, argument as distinguished from conversation on the one hand and from oratory on the other. The long-drawn-out, meandering debate was, perhaps, the only art form he understood or relished, and this was natural since the argument is in a sense our only indigenous folk-art, and it is not the poet but the silver-tongued lawyer who is our real national bard.”– from Ch. 5 “Portrait of the Intellectual as a Yale Man”, p. 141