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Book Club Tue Mar 13 2012

A Literary Life Worth Noting

My mom sends me mail regularly, usually snippets of newspaper and magazine articles she thinks I'll find interesting--and she's usually spot on.This morning I opened up a piece of mail and found an obituary that remembers the life, however briefly, of Florence Wolfson Howitt. She died last week at 96.

She lived in Manhattan, and wrote articles for Ladies' Home Journal and Cosmopolitan like, "How to Behave in Public Without an Escort"--not such a far cry from the articles in Cosmo these days--and dreamed of becoming a famous author. When she was in her 90s an old diary she'd kept as a teenager was unearthed through somewhat bizzarre circumstances and later published in 2006 as, The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal, delivering the recognition about which she'd dreamed all her life. The book is a collection of original diary entries, plus interviews with Howitt conducted by New York Times writer Lily Koppel.

Despite the lack of direct connection to our metropolis, which is full of writers who share that very ambition, the ways she pursued it are very much in tune with today's Chicago. Howitt transformed her parents' living room into a salon and hosted literary events there for friends, she edited literary magazines, including the one at Hunter College, her alma matar, and lived an overall literary life. Perhaps fame can creep up on us writers no matter how dismal the scene may appear, and Chicago certainly isn't lacking opportunity.

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Book Club is the literary section of Gapers Block, covering Chicago's authors, poets and literary events. More...

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