Authors: Rita Mae Brown
“A hilarious and touching novel about a career woman who comes out as a lesbian when she thinks she’s dying—and then lives.”
“A powerful story … A truly incredible book.”
The Boston Globe
“Brown’s characters … are full of wisdom and sass. Spirited, funny, and moving, this novel will appeal to Brown’s many fans. It may also earn her some new followers.”
Los Angeles Times
“This expansive novel of the Civil War contains what must surely be the first in-saddle marital squabble between two members of a Virginia cavalry regiment .… Fine comic scenes and smart-talking characters … Admirable.”
The New York Times Book Review
beams with Brown’s fondness for her characters and her delight in the oddness of the world of Runnymede .… We are intimately drawn into the town’s life.”
“Her books are funny, outrageous, bawdy, tender and filled with love.
is no exception .… Through it all, Brown writes so beautifully of that special and mysterious feeling we call love.”
The Plain Dealer
STARTING FROM SCRATCH: A DIFFERENT KIND OF WRITERS’ MANUAL
“Funny enough in places to make you laugh aloud but honest enough to weed out the weak of heart who think writing is made by muses rather than writers’ hard work.”
The Columbus Sunday Dispatch
This edition contains the complete text of the original hardcover edition
NOT ONE WORD HAS BEEN OMITTED
IN HER DAY
A Bantam Book / published by arrangement with the author
Daughters, Inc. edition published in 1976
Bantam edition / November 1988
All rights reserved
1976 by Rita Mae Brown
Cover design copyright
1988 by One + One Studio.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 76-7817
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In art as in politics we must deal with people as they are not as we wish them to be. Only by working with the real can you get closer to the ideal.
What’s wrong with you?
Trouble is said to be good for an artist’s soul but almost never is.
In Her Day
reflects the troubles inside the women’s movement at the beginning of the 1970s. It was a time of emotional hemophilia, and popular novels reflected that—here was lots of bleeding all over the page. I was determined in my crucial, second novel (the second novel is a killer) not to be a party to literary melodrama or political melodrama if I could help it. I was also determined to jump the Grand Canyon between first person narrative and third person. I landed safely on the other side despite a few frightening wobbles while airborne.
This is not to say that
In Her Day
is splendid and I’m a scribbling wonder. It is only to say that I had a difficult challenge before me—made all the more difficult by the wild success of
—and I managed to complete the task of writing a second novel that would not be
Daughter of Rubyfruit Jungle
and would teach me something. Whether or not the reader gets anything out of it is another matter entirely.
The cascade of years, fourteen, between the writing of this novel and today jolted me with surprises. The political world described herein has vanished or, perhaps more accurately, gone underground until a later time. Many of the protestors of the late sixties and early seventies became rebels with MasterCards. Lest I be too hard on them/us, it helps to remember that in order to create a political movement one
must sacrifice much of one’s personal life. It was inevitable that the responsibilities of daily life would catch up with millions of people who had put their careers and family development on hold. The issues raised during the years of protest remain unresolved. We’ve moved the ball forward, but we’re nowhere near the goal line.
In Her Day
concentrates on inching that ball forward, and it revolves around the conflict between a young movement organizer and a middle-aged woman who has different priorities. Oddly enough, if I were to write the novel today, the issues would remain the same but the characters would be reversed: the young woman would be conservative and the middle-aged woman would be the radical. But then, how could I have foreseen the rise of the Sunbelt neofascists who seek only to make a purse out of their skin? Today we live in a society suffering from ethical rickets.
The rise of the right isn’t the only surprise the years have brought. Consider the “new” woman. She’s trying to be Pollyanna Borgia, clearly a conflict of interest. She’s supposed to be a ruthless winner at work and a bundle of nurturing sweetness at home. It remains for each woman to find her place and each man his in this cultural chaos of mixed signals.
One thing is certain. The definition of “normal” has taken a beating. What is a normal woman? What is a normal man? Maybe normal is the average of the deviance, and maybe every period of history was as chaotic, confusing, and even as silly as our own.
We back into the future, and the past we can see has been shorn of the confusion and much of the conflict. The events are finished. We can make sense out of them, and looking back is curiously comforting. What was considered deviant then is now perceived
as creative, and so it will be fifteen years hence when we glance over our shoulders at this time.
In Her Day
is true to its time, but is it true to me? As a reader it’s tempting to assume that a novel is a complete reflection of the author. It isn’t. It may reflect parts of an author’s personality, pursuing themes that hold that author, but the creator of a work is separate from the work. Today I read
In Her Day
as though it were someone else’s book, because I have stumbled along in my growth as a writer and as a person. Siegfried Sassoon expressed this reality quite poignantly in
Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man
. He wrote, “I did not anticipate that I should become
; I should only become older.”
I am a different woman from the one who wrote
In Her Day
. I no longer assume that as a nation we will move forward. I see only too clearly that progress has both a forward and a backward motion. In our case, make that blacklash motion.
I no longer idolize reason. I have come to accept that ninety percent of what we do is irrational and that we spend what little rational thought we have in justifying our irrationality.
I know that after all is said and done, more is said than done.
I know that people often want to do the right thing but are too lazy to do it.
I still hope that in those moments of great crisis we will rise up and try to do the decent thing, the just thing. Only, why do we have to wait for a crisis? I don’t know if I will ever reach a point where I understand and accept that facet of human nature.
But I do accept that we are an absurd and frightened little species capable of great mischief. That
glimmer of absurdity runs through
In Her Day
and everything else I have ever written.
And I accept that as I change I also remain the same in certain fundamental respects. My spirit is informed by my gender but unencumbered by it. That part of me will never change.
Nor will my sense of humor. I’m beginning to feel that the real endangered species on planet earth are not the whales and the elephants but those of us who can laugh at the world and ourselves. For instance: I envy Christ. He was born before the credit card. Who would write that but me? You might argue, who would want to? Well, I do. Why would God give me this sense of humor if S/He did not intend for me to use it? I fear the dry turn of the American mind, this focus on the literal, as much as I fear our capacity for self-destruction. We’ve become hagridden by facts, obsessed with product instead of process. Where’s the energetic wit, the looney outlook, the frivolity, the lightness of comforting laughter? It has become fashionable to know and unfashionable to feel, and you can’t really laugh if you can’t feel.
“Cogito, ergo sum.”
I think, therefore I
. I say,
“Rideo, ergo sum.”
I laugh, therefore I am.
7 June 1988