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Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser

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When Rita Mae Brown writes, people often end up laughing out loud.  So naturally, when the bestselling author of Rubyfruit Jungle, Venus Envy, and the Mrs. Murphy mystery series writes about her own life, it's a hoot, a rollicking ride with an independent, opinionated woman who changed literary history--the first openly lesbian writer to break into the mainstream.  Now, in When Rita Mae Brown writes, people often end up laughing out loud.  So naturally, when the bestselling author of Rubyfruit Jungle, Venus Envy, and the Mrs. Murphy mystery series writes about her own life, it's a hoot, a rollicking ride with an independent, opinionated woman who changed literary history--the first openly lesbian writer to break into the mainstream.  Now, in Rita Will, she tells all...and tells it hilariously. It is often said that the best comedy springs from hard times.  And Rita Mae Brown has seen plenty of those.  In this irresistibly readable memoir, she recounts the drama of her birth as the illegitimate daughter of a flighty blue blood who left her in an orphanage.  The sickly baby was quickly rescued by relatives eager to adopt her but afraid she would not survive the long journey home.  Her determination to live, and shock everyone by doing it, has become a metaphor for her entire life. Though raised by these loving adoptive parents and a wacky host of other interfering kin, Rita Mae Brown learned early on to be tough and to speak her mind.  It was her refusal to be anything but herself that often brought her the most trouble.  Here she tells of her tempestuous relationship with her adoptive mother, the mythic Juts of the novels Six of One and Bingo, who called her "the ill," for illegitimate, whenever she lost her temper, and who swore she'd introduce Rita Mae to the social graces, including the dreaded cotillion, even if it killed them both. Here, too, Rita Mae reveals how her headstrong support of social causes almost cost her a hard-earned education and her outspokenness in the early days of the women's movement got her drummed out of NOW, and how the release of her first novel, the scandalous classic Rubyfruit Jungle, made her an overnight phenomenon--the most famous openly gay person in America--and took her from the heights of the New York Times bestseller list to the surreal playhouse that is Hollywood. Through it all, Rita Mae has drawn strength from her profound bond with animals, from her abiding affection for the South and its native tongue, and from the great passions of her life.  She writes with close-to-the-bone honesty about woman-woman love...including her love-at-first-sight relationship with a popular actor and her headline-making romance with tennis great Martina Navratilova.  With her trademark humor, she unflinchingly bares her own flaws, flouting public opinion yet displaying the unflappable good sense that shows through everything she writes. A look into a woman's mind and a writer's irrepressible spirit, Rita Will is quintessential Rita Mae Brown--a book that feels like a kick-your-shoes-off visit with an old friend. From the Hardcover edition.


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When Rita Mae Brown writes, people often end up laughing out loud.  So naturally, when the bestselling author of Rubyfruit Jungle, Venus Envy, and the Mrs. Murphy mystery series writes about her own life, it's a hoot, a rollicking ride with an independent, opinionated woman who changed literary history--the first openly lesbian writer to break into the mainstream.  Now, in When Rita Mae Brown writes, people often end up laughing out loud.  So naturally, when the bestselling author of Rubyfruit Jungle, Venus Envy, and the Mrs. Murphy mystery series writes about her own life, it's a hoot, a rollicking ride with an independent, opinionated woman who changed literary history--the first openly lesbian writer to break into the mainstream.  Now, in Rita Will, she tells all...and tells it hilariously. It is often said that the best comedy springs from hard times.  And Rita Mae Brown has seen plenty of those.  In this irresistibly readable memoir, she recounts the drama of her birth as the illegitimate daughter of a flighty blue blood who left her in an orphanage.  The sickly baby was quickly rescued by relatives eager to adopt her but afraid she would not survive the long journey home.  Her determination to live, and shock everyone by doing it, has become a metaphor for her entire life. Though raised by these loving adoptive parents and a wacky host of other interfering kin, Rita Mae Brown learned early on to be tough and to speak her mind.  It was her refusal to be anything but herself that often brought her the most trouble.  Here she tells of her tempestuous relationship with her adoptive mother, the mythic Juts of the novels Six of One and Bingo, who called her "the ill," for illegitimate, whenever she lost her temper, and who swore she'd introduce Rita Mae to the social graces, including the dreaded cotillion, even if it killed them both. Here, too, Rita Mae reveals how her headstrong support of social causes almost cost her a hard-earned education and her outspokenness in the early days of the women's movement got her drummed out of NOW, and how the release of her first novel, the scandalous classic Rubyfruit Jungle, made her an overnight phenomenon--the most famous openly gay person in America--and took her from the heights of the New York Times bestseller list to the surreal playhouse that is Hollywood. Through it all, Rita Mae has drawn strength from her profound bond with animals, from her abiding affection for the South and its native tongue, and from the great passions of her life.  She writes with close-to-the-bone honesty about woman-woman love...including her love-at-first-sight relationship with a popular actor and her headline-making romance with tennis great Martina Navratilova.  With her trademark humor, she unflinchingly bares her own flaws, flouting public opinion yet displaying the unflappable good sense that shows through everything she writes. A look into a woman's mind and a writer's irrepressible spirit, Rita Will is quintessential Rita Mae Brown--a book that feels like a kick-your-shoes-off visit with an old friend. From the Hardcover edition.

30 review for Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    My most bizarre and probably irrelevant takeaway from this book: When Rita Mae Brown told her boyfriend (in the 1960s, I think?) that she wasn't going to marry him he was like "WELL THE ONLY GIRL I WANT IS YOU SO I'M GOING TO GO SLEEP WITH DUDES NOW." And then he was (from what I could tell) exclusively gay eventually. What?? That was never fully explained. I found it rather humorous. Oh yes, also... Rita Mae Brown, acclaimed lesbian, is not... actually a lesbian, strictly speaking. Definitely qu My most bizarre and probably irrelevant takeaway from this book: When Rita Mae Brown told her boyfriend (in the 1960s, I think?) that she wasn't going to marry him he was like "WELL THE ONLY GIRL I WANT IS YOU SO I'M GOING TO GO SLEEP WITH DUDES NOW." And then he was (from what I could tell) exclusively gay eventually. What?? That was never fully explained. I found it rather humorous. Oh yes, also... Rita Mae Brown, acclaimed lesbian, is not... actually a lesbian, strictly speaking. Definitely queer with a preference for women, but she also likes men. I mean, not just when she was younger; she mentions pretty late into the book that she was still dating men sometimes. I don't know... People can label themselves however they want, I guess. But it kind of bothered me. I'd always been told she was a lesbian and she referred to herself as such, so I therefore assumed she didn't like men. Though it's clear from this book that, above everything else, she likes herself. And her animals.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Freyja Vanadis

    Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was interesting to read about her childhood and early adulthood, and I feel sorry for her because her mom and Aunt Mimi were absolute monsters. But now her novels make sense, because they're all based on her family members. And I enjoyed reading about her experiences with other people and the way she dropped names. However, she needs to quit calling herself a lesbian. Anyone who dates and has sex with both men and women is bisexual, not homosexual. That was a huge Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was interesting to read about her childhood and early adulthood, and I feel sorry for her because her mom and Aunt Mimi were absolute monsters. But now her novels make sense, because they're all based on her family members. And I enjoyed reading about her experiences with other people and the way she dropped names. However, she needs to quit calling herself a lesbian. Anyone who dates and has sex with both men and women is bisexual, not homosexual. That was a huge irritant for me. At least on one page she admits she's probably more bisexual than lesbian, but unfortunately that's the only time she does so. Her description of her relationship with Martina Navratilova was interesting, especially when Martina dumped her and Rita Mae shot out the back window of her BMW with a pistol because she was so mad. Not the smartest move she's ever made, but that pales in comparison to the really stupid lack of judgment she made in getting involved a few years later with Martina and her girlfriend Judy Nelson. Apparently, according to Rita Mae, she was basically the mediator when they broke up and she tried to get them to settle out of court instead of allowing Nelson's $7 million lawsuit to go forward. I remember the Navratilova/Nelson fiasco quite well, it was plastered all over the LGBT news back then, but I certainly don't remember Rita Mae's name ever popping up in relation to that. If she was as involved as she claims, how was she able to keep it a secret without the LGBT press getting wind of it? Let's just say I'm a little skeptical.... And then, to prove she's completely oblivious to reality, she got into a relationship with Judy Nelson! How fucking stupid could she be? Ugh. Another thing that bothers me is how materialistic she is. Her taste in automobiles, for one thing. It's not so bad that she loves the Mercedes-Benz, because they're very common and it's not just rich people who own them. But a Rolls-Royce?!? Seriously, Rita Mae? That's the epitome of bad taste. I lost a ton of respect for her right there. And her love of the fox hunt was another thing that really bothered me. Not the actual act of hunting, because they don't kill the fox. It's the fact that it's a rich person's "sport", no matter how much she tried to protest otherwise. I found her descrptions of horses and hounds and foxhunting to be pretentious and, quite frankly, boring. I know she grew up poor, but she's certainly more than made up for it. Polo as well. Talk about a rich person's sport. But she's embraced it wholeheartedly. In short, I did like this book and I enjoyed the insights into one of my favorite authors, but she's not a person I would like on a one on one basis. I could never be friends with her.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jules

    This book is horrible. It appears not to have been edited on iota. It is almost 500 pages of self-absorbed, egotistical, name dropping, irrelevant, obtuse, ramblings. This was very surprising, considering it was written by the author of a really good book, Rubyfruit Jungle. There was also plenty of substance that would have made for interesting reading, but it was so unedited and badly written that it was difficult to ferret out the substance. I just cannot understand how her publishers allowed This book is horrible. It appears not to have been edited on iota. It is almost 500 pages of self-absorbed, egotistical, name dropping, irrelevant, obtuse, ramblings. This was very surprising, considering it was written by the author of a really good book, Rubyfruit Jungle. There was also plenty of substance that would have made for interesting reading, but it was so unedited and badly written that it was difficult to ferret out the substance. I just cannot understand how her publishers allowed this out in public. I am just glad I didn't pay any money for it, but got it from the library.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Gayle

    Loved it! Bought this book when it first came out, at Women and Children First Bookstore in Chicago, on the night that Rita Mae did a reading from this book. She signed it, too! What a memorable night!

  5. 4 out of 5

    R.E. Bradshaw

    I enjoyed this book, but then I really like Rita Mae. If you're a fan, you'll like it. I enjoyed this book, but then I really like Rita Mae. If you're a fan, you'll like it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jimyanni

    The subtitle says it all: "Memoir of a literary rabble-rouser". Rita Mae Brown is as interesting a person as I hoped, and has led as interesting a life as I had hoped, when I picked this book up. This is a good look at one of the first (semi?) famous "out" lesbians in our culture, and as such it is well worth the read for the insight that that perspective brings, even if the writer was not so interesting and so enjoyable a writer as she is. The subtitle says it all: "Memoir of a literary rabble-rouser". Rita Mae Brown is as interesting a person as I hoped, and has led as interesting a life as I had hoped, when I picked this book up. This is a good look at one of the first (semi?) famous "out" lesbians in our culture, and as such it is well worth the read for the insight that that perspective brings, even if the writer was not so interesting and so enjoyable a writer as she is.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Jank

    I have always liked the Sneaky Pie mysteries, and as an adult I read her earlier work. I really enjoy her writing. Her descriptions of her childhood are amusing, but for me the memoir really kicks into gear once she begins writing about her time with the feminist movement in the 60s/70s and the struggles of including gay people in the movement.

  8. 4 out of 5

    R.J. Gilmour

    America is a series of river crossings; these rivers made us rich. They left the soil that has made us the breadbasket of the world, whether it’s the James or the Ohio, the Mississippi or the Missouri. The great rivers define us and made transportation possible until the railroads revolutionized life in the 1830s and 1840s. Rita Mae Brown. Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble Rouser (New York: Bantam Books, 1997): 295 I realized that liking or not liking someone was irrelevant. It was the time i America is a series of river crossings; these rivers made us rich. They left the soil that has made us the breadbasket of the world, whether it’s the James or the Ohio, the Mississippi or the Missouri. The great rivers define us and made transportation possible until the railroads revolutionized life in the 1830s and 1840s. Rita Mae Brown. Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble Rouser (New York: Bantam Books, 1997): 295 I realized that liking or not liking someone was irrelevant. It was the time in history that you shared. A time binds you to another person just as passions tie to you to the dead. Rita Mae Brown. Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble Rouser (New York: Bantam Books, 1997): 467

  9. 4 out of 5

    Prooost Davis

    This is the worst book I've ever read all the way through. The writing style leaves everything to be desired, and there's hardly a page without some sort of error. I came to the conclusion that, either Bantam no longer employs editors and proofreaders, or that they just didn't like the author. As far as the content is concerned, I hope the characters in Rita Mae Brown's novels are more interesting than the people she describes here. This is the worst book I've ever read all the way through. The writing style leaves everything to be desired, and there's hardly a page without some sort of error. I came to the conclusion that, either Bantam no longer employs editors and proofreaders, or that they just didn't like the author. As far as the content is concerned, I hope the characters in Rita Mae Brown's novels are more interesting than the people she describes here.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Elvis

    this book has some good, scattered parts, but really it's not as powerful or tight as "rubyfruit jungle." One good part, tho, is when Rita starts rambling about Martina Nartilova, the tennis champ who she dated. Oh, Rita will ramble! Then suddenly she's talking about the time she pulled a .38 pistol on beloved Martina, and shot in her direction! This was after their tumultous breakup, granted, but still! Oh, Rita... this book has some good, scattered parts, but really it's not as powerful or tight as "rubyfruit jungle." One good part, tho, is when Rita starts rambling about Martina Nartilova, the tennis champ who she dated. Oh, Rita will ramble! Then suddenly she's talking about the time she pulled a .38 pistol on beloved Martina, and shot in her direction! This was after their tumultous breakup, granted, but still! Oh, Rita...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Thorn MotherIssues

    If you've read a Rita Mae Brown novel, you've read much of this story already. I enjoyed hearing about her education, her family, the story of her adoption and its impact on her role in Southern society, what it was like to be the most prominent lesbian of her era and work in and around the feminist movement, how she loves animals.... A fun read, but not earth-shattering or anything, which is exactly what I expected of it. If you've read a Rita Mae Brown novel, you've read much of this story already. I enjoyed hearing about her education, her family, the story of her adoption and its impact on her role in Southern society, what it was like to be the most prominent lesbian of her era and work in and around the feminist movement, how she loves animals.... A fun read, but not earth-shattering or anything, which is exactly what I expected of it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Granger

    Interesting read. I have read many of her books & loved most of them. This autobiography wasn't as entertaining as her fiction but captivating nonetheless. It is always interesting to get a glimpse of the 'real person'! She is one of my all time favorite writers, she is an amazing storyteller & writer. Interesting read. I have read many of her books & loved most of them. This autobiography wasn't as entertaining as her fiction but captivating nonetheless. It is always interesting to get a glimpse of the 'real person'! She is one of my all time favorite writers, she is an amazing storyteller & writer.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    This book was OK, but I was expecting more. It actually had very little of her own life in it, and a lot of her opinions of other people, which was a little off-putting. I felt like I could have learned as much about her from reading an article in a popular magazine. Since it was a memoir, I was really expecting a little bit more of her in it

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kunni Biener

    oh, Rita Mae ends up coming off as a little nasty and a little bitter. The first part was the true story of her childhood, much of which she has previously fictionalized, so if you have read her books, the beginning was a little boring. Took me years to read this, finally finished it for a book group. Moving on.....

  15. 5 out of 5

    Resistance

    Can't read Rita's novels, but I enjoyed her gossipy memoir and getting an inside look at her strange amalgamation of libertarian and radical lesbian commitments. The Lavender Menace and fox hunts! Undeniably, an original. Can't read Rita's novels, but I enjoyed her gossipy memoir and getting an inside look at her strange amalgamation of libertarian and radical lesbian commitments. The Lavender Menace and fox hunts! Undeniably, an original.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Harris

    Excellent memoir from the author of the Mrs. Murphy mystery series.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    One of my favorite memoirs. Rita Mae writes best when she's writing about herself. One of my favorite memoirs. Rita Mae writes best when she's writing about herself.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jayms

    I meet her one evening in Boston at a bookstore. I was carrying this book and looking at others and she asked if I wanted her to sign it. Again, I love her stuff!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This book is much more informative than warranted, but there is some good celebrity dirt.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tara

  21. 4 out of 5

    Idella

  22. 5 out of 5

    Krista

  23. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Walsh

  24. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  25. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sue

  27. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ashley N.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laura McNamara

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alison Sweetser

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