Letty Fox : Her Luck
"When Christina Stead's LETTY FOX first appeared in 1947 it was widely attacked as a slur on womanhood in general and American womanhood in particular. As Meaghan Morris observes in her introduction: 'LETTY FOX had offended because it presented a woman's account of her sexual and emotional life without following the prescribed formula for females of modesty, passivity and simple contentment. It described the way women do live, not the way they are supposed to live...it is likely to be equally disturbing now when Letty's notions of self respect in marriage are being discarded by more and more women. LETTY FOX stands as one view of what life is like for one woman trying to live alone in a city and not liking it for very long. LETTY FOX is remarkable in being one of the few radical novels about why a woman might want to opt in.'"
One hot night last spring, after waiting fruitlessly for a call from my then lover, with whom I had quarreled the same afternoon, and finding one of my black moods on me, I flung out of my lonely room on the ninth floor (unlucky number) in a hotel in lower Fifth Avenue and rushed into the streets of the Village, feeling bad. My first thought was, at any cost, to get company for the evening. In general, things were bad for me; I was in low water financially and had nothing but married men as companions. My debts were nearly six hundred dollars, not counting my taxes in arrears. I had already visited the tax inspector twice and promised to pay in instalments when I had money in the bank. I had told him that I was earning my own living, with no resources, separated from my family, and that though my weekly pay was good, that is sixty-five dollars, I needed that and more to live. All this was true. I now had, by good fortune, about seventy dollars in the bank, but this was only because a certain man had given me a handsome present (the only handsome present I ever got, in fact) and this money I badly needed for clothes, for moving and for petty cash. During the war, I had got used to taking a taxi to work. Being out always late at night, I was sluggish in the morning; and being a great worker at the office, I was behindhand for my evening dates. Beyond such expenses, I needed at least two hundred and fifty dollars for a new coat. My fur coat, got from my mother, and my dinner dress, got from grandmother, were things of the past and things with a past, mere rags and too well known to all my friends. There was no end to what I needed. My twenty-fourth birthday was just gone, and I had spent two hours this same evening ruminating upon all my love affairs which had sunk ingloriously into the past, along with my shrunken and worn outfits. Most of these affairs had been promising enough. Why had they failed? (Or I failed?) Partly, because my men, at least during the war years, had been flightly, spoiled officers in the armed services, in and out of town, lookng for a good-timer by the night, the week, or the month; and if not these young officers, then my escorts were floaters of another sort, middle-aged, married civilians, journalists, economic advisers, respresentatives of foreign governments or my own bosses, office managers, chiefs, owners. But my failure was, too, because I had no apartment to which to take them. How easy for them to find it inconvenient to visit me at my hotel, or for me to visit them at theirs when they were dubious or cool. It seemed to me that night that a room of my own was what I principally lacked.
From the Angus and Robertson paperback edition, 1974.
This page and its contents are copyright © 2003 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to Christina Stead page.
Last modified: September 15, 2003.