Saturday, August 25, 2018

Pulitzer, Roxanne, and Kathleen Maxa. The Prize Pulitzer. New York: Ballantine, 1987.

Pulitzer, Roxanne, and Kathleen Maxa.  The Prize Pulitzer. New York: Ballantine, 1987.

Pulitzer, Roxanne, and Kathleen Maxa.  The Prize Pulitzer. New York: Ballantine, 1987.


First, since I am a writer myself, I’d like to give my own unsolicited advice, not the opinion of Blogger, GoodReads, or anyone else.  Don’t be so impressed with the Pulitzer Prize; buy one of poor Lily’s bracelets instead.   I wouldn’t be so leased with being its winner after reading about its origins and descendants.  This sordid bunch of poor little rich children seems to exist to destroy other people’s lives, especially if those people are young women.


True, generally, there are two sides to every story, but not this one.  It’s unfair to label a woman as a gold digger because the history of marriage itself encourages “gold digging” or marriage as a career goal, perhaps the only one for women.  I’d even call it legalized prostitution at its worst. Think.


In the Ancient World, marriage was a political treaty, meant to seal the fate of nations and produce heirs. Review the sad history of Henry VIII and his wives. As he says in one of the many literary accounts of the marriage of Henry and Anne Boleyn, Henry didn’t marry Catharine [of Aragon]; England married Spain.  Remember Princess Diana was hailed for producing the “heir and a spare!”  Or, there’s the first Empress of Iran, wife of the modern, exiled Shah.  They were compelled to divorce because she couldn’t have children.


In many cultures “loss of consortium” is grounds for divorce.  That means, you are not performing sexually, or performing “wifely duties.”  Usually, it’s someone else’s fault.  Nonperformance is due to injury caused by a third party, but it could be something peculiar to the individual spouses.  Maybe it works both ways where a husband is concerned, but I don’t want to go off topic. 


According to Coventry Patmore’s “The Angel of the House”, women were meant to marry,  to suffer childbirth, take care of everyone else, and yet be childlike and submissive as Hubby’s little angel.  Patmore’s poem could have been the updated script for Herbert Pulitzer’s guide to marriage.  He isn’t alone; his pal Jim Kimberly is mentioned, as is many other crazy rich couple with nothing in common but their coke and their cocktails.  Lolita, anyone?


Roxanne Pulitzer was the ultimate submissive wife; if she enjoyed the perversions her husband encouraged, well, isn’t that the Patmore school of happy marriage?  Just read the books on the topic, fiction and nonfiction.  In Othello, poor Desdemona gets creamed just because of insinuations. Kate has to curb her strong personality after all kinds of emotional abuse and games are forced on her in The Taming of the Shrew. 


In “real life”  genius Sor Juan Ines de la Cruz went to the convent rather than enter an arranged marriage.


Barbara Pym’s novels, letters, and journals are a study of unsuitable attachments and male/female relationships of all kinds.  She would have had an entire saga based on the Pulitzer trial.  For starters, read Excellent Women, An Unsuitable Attachment, and No Fond Return of Love.  Pym realized that despite her love stories, there was often no happy ever after for the heroine.  Sometimes, the quest for a woman to lead a full life involved filing that Holy Grail, something to love.  Something to love could be a vocation, friendship, love of animals, or other passion.  It didn’t have to be a man, husband, or family.  As another writer, Vera Brittain put it, anyone can have a baby; only I can write my books. Virginia Woolf would have called it finding a room of one’s own.


Contact me if you want to know more about thee authors.



In several Ancient Cultures widows were burned on funeral pyres, otherwise killed, or just cast out.  Women beyond childbearing age were of no value at all.  Marriage was the only hope, and a well suited one at that. Hello!! Jane Austen’s everything, C. Bronte’s Jane Eyre, E. Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.  Sheila Jeffries’ study, The Spinster and Her
Greer’s The Female Eunuch, Susan Faludi’s Backlash, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique,  the history around the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, the history behind the suffragettes, the century’s old persecution of women as witches, still going on in parts of the world today; it’s everywhere. All these texts explore the topic of misogyny and marriage.  So do Title VII, and the many cases and legal treatises dealing with sexual harassment ad discrimination.


Marry and listen to your husband, or else.  Don’t read A Vindication of the Rights of Women, or even Miguel de Unamuno’s Nada menos de todo un hombre. Stay away from historical texts like The Plantation Mistress and A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.


Roxanne Pulitzer had been married before Pulitzer, and it didn’t work out.  She was young and inexperienced.  It happens.  Her life was unremarkable; she had worked, tried marriage, and underwent trials many young women of the 70s and 80s struggled with


These struggles threw her into the path of her famous husband, whose family worked menial jobs as entertainment when they were bored, while others fought to get those jobs to survive.  While his obituary exalted him as a philanthropist, sportsman, business man, etc., he was another rich, controlling playboy who got away with a lot of emotional abuse.


He had no business marrying a young woman who lacked his experience any more than Milton, whom I usually adore for his poetry, had any business marrying an illiterate 16 year old when he was 33 and spoke at least seven languages.  Mr. Kimberly had no business at 60 something marrying a 19 tear old he’d met when she was 17.  She later committed suicide in her late fifties, after her apartment roommate and friend, another woman, died.  Kimberly tried twice to divorce his wife, and he succeeded the second time.


The Judge who wrote the Pulitzer opinion, published at the end of the book, was arcane in his thinking.  The standard even then was that the divorced wife receive enough monetary support to maintain the lifestyle to which she had become accustomed during the marriage.  He took the word of the husband in this case, without looking to the evidence that must have been everywhere about the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous in his jurisdiction. Mr. P was no angel, and his own drinking, cocaine use, and predilection for threesomes should have found its way into the testimony.


Instead, a naïve young woman who couldn’t have had those experiences on her previous salary  was vilified.  He didn’t want to pay child support, the old cheapskate, and he wanted to hide his oedipal problems with his daughter from a previous marriage, so he sacrificed his wife. 


Similar cases in the same time period declared that a mother was still presumed to be the custodial parents under the tender year’s doctrine, lifestyle notwithstanding.  It was clear he didn’t want his kids even on family vacations, while she wanted the boys with her.  A mother’s lifestyle does not interfere with a custody award to her unless it can be shown it affects her children adversely.  That finding was lacking and weak in the Pulitzer case.


Anyone who wants to read more case law, let me know.  I have gobs from Prof. S’ family law class, which I was taking when this trial was going on.


During the Renaissance, there was a backlash against aristocratic women speaking their minds; they could only do it in the face of impending death, or if they were deemed mad.  Scolds bridles and other fun toys existed to shut them up.  Read the works of Lady Jane Grey, the little Anne Boleyn left behind, Catharine of Aragon’s last letter, Mary Cary’s plays, the letters of Jane Anger, and their biographers and editors like Mary Ellen Lamb and Ann Rosalind Jones.


500 years later, or so, we see this stifling of “wealthy” women taking place in the Pulitzer trial.  Eerily, it was the legal “foreplay” foreshadowing the O.J. Simpson murder trial that would occur some seven years later, when the victim, Nicole Simpson’s lifestyle was put on trial.  Ironically, Simpson is mentioned in The Prize Pulitzer briefly.


Furthermore, Ms. Pulitzer was chastised by the Judge and it seems the public, for dating after divorce papers were filed.  This should never have been brought up.  Once the papers are filed, that’s it.  Matters of custody and alimony are left to be worked out.  Unless they can prove her after divorce-filing dates caused the break up in the marriage, hands off!  If Ms. Pulitzer’s friend were involved in the divorce, it would have been mentioned in the original papers first filed. 


Even more medieval is the judge’s insistence on making Ms. Pulitzer’s religious beliefs an issue. I know I am being simplistic, but boys and girls, even judicial boys and girls, please read The First Amendment, and all of the legal analysis it has caused to be published.  Religious practice can be monitored and controlled, e.g., human sacrifice is no longer allowed.  Belief, however, cannot be punished. Pulitzer was obviously punished at least in part, for what she believed.


So, the double standard lives on. Roxanne Pulitzer seems to have moved on and found peace, her twin boys are grown, their father gone recently to his heavenly reward.  Hers was indeed a cautionary tale that could have been part of  The Canterbury Tales.  She has survived the “cruel world of the very rich”  (Author Pat Booth’s review) and managed to support herself and maintain her sanity.  We wish her the best.


As the Village Voice said, “Might not win The Prize Pulitzer, but does have the dish heavenly.”



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