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Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser [Paperback]

Rita Mae Brown
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 5 1999
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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From Amazon

Before Rubyfruit Jungle stormed the book world in 1973, the term "bestselling lesbian novelist" was an oxymoron. But Rita Mae Brown's first novel was so honest and funny that it broke all barriers. The 52-year-old author's memoirs have the same sassy panache as her fiction. Generous and loving toward her eccentric family and most of those with whom she's been intimate, Brown pulls no punches when depicting those she considers hypocrites or cowards. Billie Jean King will hate this book; Martina Navratilova won't like it either. Almost everyone else will find it a delight. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This is an autobiography of novelist, essayist, poet, and screenwriter Brown, who reached fame and notoriety with her first novel, Rubyfruit Jungle (1973). She begins with her illegitimate birth and adoption by relatives, followed by amusing tales of her adopted mother, father, and Aunt Mimi; accounts of her childhood pranks; stories of her volatile life as a student, political activist, lover of tennis champion Martina Navratilova and Fannie Flagg; and reminiscences of a writer who dared to live, speak, and write openly and honestly. Whether or not readers agree with her ideology, opinions, and lifestyle, they will enjoy the ease, candor, and humor with which Brown relates her life story. Brown's passions for life, her work, the English language, the South, and animals, especially her longtime cat companion, "Baby Jesus," are evident throughout. Reading this book is like sitting down and exchanging tales with a good friend or close family member.
-?Jeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ. Libs., New Brunswick, N.J.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and Wild Feb. 14 2003
This book is hilarious--several times I found myself laughing out loud at something she said. I minused out one star because of her blatant southern-centricism--she thinks most of us Yankees are rude, and that only southerners possess real manners. My little tabby cat Sammy says PFFFFFTTT to that.
Her account of the Martina/Judy galimony brouhaha is especially hilarious, with poor Rita Mae stuck in the middle, trying to encourage the two to settle things amicably. She gives a highly unflattering (but probably true) portrait of Judy Nelson. Her first impression of Judy was: "How often do you meet a woman whose hair can be ruined by a ceiling fan?" That one cracks me up every time. She talks about some of her relationships with women, most notable those with Martina Navratilova, Fannie Flagg, and Judy Nelson.
She relates the struggles she went through getting a college education and establishing her writing career, but she manages to keep things light by peppering amusing anecdotes of family life (and reactions) in between the more serious passages. She talks about her days as an lesbian feminist activist with Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, which I found to be of great interest, as she worked closely with these famous women. She is not kind to Billie Jean King, declaring, "Some people get the face they deserve as they grow old; Billie Jean also got the thighs she deserved." MEOOWWW. Sneaky Pie must have contributed that one.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable read, full of Southern wit and charm. If you're a fan of Rita Mae's work, you'll love reading her real-life story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book! Sept. 25 2001
By A Customer
...I'm a tennis fan who was curious about the author's insights on Martina Navratilova. What I ended up with was a tremendously interesting and engaging book. Rita Mae Brown has perspectives and experiences unlike my own and I could not put the book down. I liked the parts about her family also. Certainly there are political messages here, but they are based on her own experiences and are not "preachy" or coming from someone who lives in theories only. If you are a fan of her books, this will be a big treat for you. If you don't know her, read this book for a different life perspective, particuarly about women's issues, including lesbian issues. If these issues offend you, or you don't like reading about them, then this book is probably not for you. It's not an integral part of the book, but it is there. The book is about a person. The book reads like you are talking to her, and she is very interesting. Also, I always suspected Billie Jean King was wretched personally, so I really liked the parts where my opinion is all but supported by someone in the know!
This is an autobiography. Of course the book is about her. Dah! There are a few instances where she comes off a little haughty in my opinion, but I haven't published books or earned the money to have a farm in Virginia, and I didn't struggle through poverty for years to get there either, so I think she's entitled to a little license, folks. The only part I didn't like was when she discussed Fannie Flagg's former lover and only gave her a pseudonym with a vague but "see if you can guess" description. I'm a born gossip and love stuff like that! I think I figured out her hints, but I hate having to do that. It's such a silly exercise. Maybe that was the point in doing that, who knows. Anyone in the closet ought to read this regarding her depiction of Jerry Pfeiffer. I think the silliness of that lifestyle is well exposed simply by recounting the facts. Anyway, very good read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Anyone who has read Rita Mae Brown's earlier works or heard her as a public speaker would agree that she's one of the smartest, quick witted and entertaining female writers on the scene today. Her Autobiography is another example of her strong intellect, courage and humor while sometimes sounding a bit self-indulgent and egotistical. In spite of its narcissistic tone I really enjoyed this book.
Rita Mae's vast knowledge of historical, social and political issues was incredibly impressive and her own transcendance from a farm girl to a social icon for Lesbianism places her among some of the most significant writers in American Women's History.
She's a smart lady with an honest heart who knows what she believes and is unafraid to stand up and be counted irregardless of the cost. As a younger woman, I feel eternally grateful to have her as a dependable advocate for womens' and minorities' issues. RITA WILL not only gives the reader a surprising view of the authors life story but also a slice of Women's History from the perspective of an active participant.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I really like this woman! April 25 1998
I already knew that Rita Mae Brown is one of the funniest writers alive today. I split my sides reading "Six of One", which remains my favorite. Now I appreciate just how intelligent, courageous, and resourceful she is. She dives right into life, and has played a part in some of our most tempestuous recent history. I found her analyses of the feminist movement, the gay-rights movement, "hollyweird" to be refreshingly candid and intelligent, as is her Southern working class viewpoint. I had a little trouble getting through the first part of the book, lists of names of people I don't know who aren't really described; but I found I couldn't put it down even then. I like this woman, and I appreciate her sharing herself and her opinions with me. There aren't too many people whose opinions I care to hear. I'm writing this because I found some of the reviews here shockingly petty and sniping. Here's a bit of heartfelt acclaim to tip the scales the other way.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Stick with Rubyfruit.
As a proud vet of the Feminist frontlines 1968-1976, I could hardly wait to read her newest book. Her classic book Rubyfruit Jungle was a gem. Read more
Published on March 23 2004 by "tulaone"
5.0 out of 5 stars what's true
After reading R.M. Brown's "Sudden death" and "Rubyfruit jungle", I simply had to know what is fiction and what is true in these books full of entertaining... Read more
Published on Aug. 30 2001 by MaRie
5.0 out of 5 stars Rabble Rousing Genius!
One of the greatest gifts a popular author can give their fans next to a "How To" on writing and style is an Autobiography. In her Memoir Ms. Read more
Published on Dec 27 2000 by Brian Nahodil
3.0 out of 5 stars Few surprises, her novels are just as autobiographical
If you, too, are a fan Rita's, you will find few surprises in Rita Will. Much of what I read was fictionalized already in Rubyfruit Jungle and Rita's three Juts and Wheezy novels... Read more
Published on Feb. 29 2000 by "kathrynlively"
5.0 out of 5 stars How can an autobiography NOT be self-involved?
Although I'm hesitant to write due to my bias- Ms. Brown is my favorite author- I had a hard time understanding the reviews that use words like 'egoist'. Read more
Published on March 24 1999
3.0 out of 5 stars A (Literary) Sneaky One
I came across this book completely unaware of who the personna of Rita Mae Brown was. I have to admit her attitude came across as soon as I opened the first pages. Read more
Published on Aug. 25 1998 by Antonio Sacin (abreviatio@aol.com)
5.0 out of 5 stars a master of understatement
Rita Mae Brown is like another well-known Southern aristocrat, Florence King, in both her rapier wit and sexual proclivities. Read more
Published on July 29 1998 by barbara holliday-evans
5.0 out of 5 stars I laughed! I cried.
I thought this was an excellent book. It has even more humor than many of her other books --- or maybe it seems that way since this time, it's non-fiction. It is also touching. Read more
Published on July 16 1998
1.0 out of 5 stars Not sure whether sneakie-pie or Rita Mae wrote this.
This lovely work should have been titled "Memoirs of a Literary Potato-Head. If I read one more self-indulgent, conceited, horse-loving autobiography, I will puke. Read more
Published on Jan. 3 1998
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