The Troubles of the Lucky

“I am sick of the troubles of the lucky. I never liked them, really have tried to live without them. They have no true seriousness.” —Lillian Hellman

Inexplicably, autumn makes me think of Lillian Hellman. Perhaps it’s explicable, after all: I first read Scoundrel Time early in the school year my freshman year of high school and I read Peter Feibleman’s memoir Lilly, about his tempestuous relationship with Hellman, in October 2004.

That particular book is a vital read if, like me, you fell in love with Lillian Hellman’s much vaunted honesty (mostly vaunted by herself but no matter) and then fell into disgust when you realized how much she embellished, exaggerated, stole, or just plain fabricated. What Feibleman’s book does better than any biography I’ve ever read of Hellman—even her biographers can’t help but reveal their dislike by the time they’re finished—is present a woman who is difficult, capricious, and captious, but still gallant, kind, and fascinating to be around. We tend to forget that the people worth something are usually not the gentlest souls; I’m not sure why Hellman suffers more from this than the rest, but I will cling to the picture Feibleman paints of her in Lilly and try to reconcile it with the rest of the truth.

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