Conversations Between a Writer and a Painter
with Françoise Gilot
Publisher: Nan Talese Books, an imprint of Doubleday
Date first published: November 2015
This Edition: First U.S. Edition
A provocative and wide-ranging conversation between two distinctive women - one American and one French - on the dilemmas, benefits, and demands of womanhood
Lisa Alther and Françoise Gilot have been friends for more than twenty-five years. Although from different backgrounds (Gilot from cosmopolitan Paris, Alther from small-town Tennessee) and different generations, they found they have a great deal in common as women who managed to support themselves with careers in the arts while simultaneously balancing the obligations of work and parenthood. About Women is their extended conversation in which they talk about everything important to them: their childhoods, the impact of war on their lives and their work, and their views on love, style, self-invention, feminism, even child rearing. They also talk about the creative impulse and the importance of art. This is a charming and endearing dialogue between two intelligent and often funny women as they ponder what it means to be a woman.
LISA ALTHER was born in 1944 in Tennessee. She is widely known for her first novel, Kinflicks (1975), a feminist coming-of-age narrative that broke new ground in terms of what could be written and talked about. She is the author of nine works of fiction, a memoir, and a narrative history of the Hatfield-McCoy feud. Her books have been published in seventeen languages and have appeared on bestseller lists worldwide.
FRANÇOISE GILOT was born in 1921 in Paris. She was a part of the emerging School of Paris. In 1943, she met Pablo Picasso, an artist forty years her senior, with whom she had a decade-long relationship. In 1964 Gilot published Life with Picasso, which sold over a million copies in its first year and has been translated into more than a dozen languages. She is also the author of Matisse and Picasso: A Friendship in Art (1990), among other books. She married the French painter Luc Simon, and later, the American vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk. Gilot's works are included in the collections of many museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She was made Chevalier and then Officier de la Legion d'Honneur.
"In this tribute to the length and quality of their friendship, the authors adeptly draw one another out, challenge each other, and build on each other's ideas. The conversation is consistently funny, interesting, and thoughtful."
- Publishers Weekly
"The narrative is loose and fluid, giving readers an inside look into the personal lives of these two women as they converse about religion, sex, or child-rearing over cups of tea or glasses of wine ... Entertaining, informative conversations between two women friends."
- Kirkus Reviews
"I've often wondered about sitting at a banquet of the gods, listening to them talk. It's the sound of heaven. But it comes to humming life in About Women, where two of the most interesting women of our time, the novelist Lisa Alther and the painter (and former partner of Picasso) Françoise Gilot, engage in a wide-ranging and bracing conversation on the experience of womanhood. Their backgrounds could not be less similar; but they trade stories and repeatedly converge in stunning ways to illumine the ways that women love and work, find meaning in their daily lives, balance tradition and innovation. Both are highly creative women, and they rub against each other in exactly the right ways, shedding a brilliant fantail of sparks. I'll read this book again and again."
- Jay Parini
author of The Last Station
"Reading About Women is a privilege. I felt as if I were eavesdropping on a juicy private conversation between two of the cleverest, most sophisticated cultural figures in the Western world. Besides coming to know Alther's and Gilot's idiosyncratic families of origin and the wellsprings of their respective creative careers, I was challenged to reconsider the connection between fashion and feminism, the difference between Catholics and Episcopalians, between France, England, and the American South, between harassment and flirting, and why, when they disagreed with each other, they both made sense to me. By the end of this feast of a book, I thought about their remarkable friendship and felt envy."
- Letty Cottin Pogrebin
author of Single Jewish Male Seeking Soul Mate
and a founding editor of Ms. magazine
"A writer and an artist hold a conversation and ask the big question: how can women live meaningful and creative lives? Everything is discussed: philosophy, love, art, literature, childhood, and fashion are examined from different perspectives. The result is an intimate, edifying, and fascinating book."
- Madeleine Kunin
former governor of Vermont
and author of The New Feminist Agenda
"The best eavesdropping book I've ever read."
- Steve Fischer
New England Independent Booksellers Association