Friday, November 27, 2009

Judith Krantz: Sex and Shopping

The closest thing to a romance novel I've read is probably work by Jane Austen and Edith Wharton, certainly nothing by Judith Krantz. Nonetheless, because of her friendship with Sue Kaufman, I plunged into her very interesting nonfiction work (probably her final book), Sex and Shopping: The Confessions of a Nice Jewish Girl -- An Autobiography (2000, 2001+).

Krantz (b. 1/28/1928) covers a lot of ground, including her then (at the time of writing) 45-year marriage to Steve Krantz (5/20/1923-1/4/2007), living in New York City, France and California, Jewish culture, and much more.

Most interestingly to me, she notes how Sue Kaufman (8/7/1926-6/25/1977) became so sensitive to criticism that she decided to stop writing novels after
Falling Bodies (1974), citing a letter Kaufman wrote her to that effect. Kaufman's last work, The Master and Other Stories (1976) is an eclectic collection that includes earlier, formerly published stories. Krantz states explicitly on page 307 that Kaufman committed suicide by jumping from an 18th story window in Manhattan; elsewhere she notes that suicides among her generation were often covered up: with "an old-fashioned way of thinking, [Krantz's mother] thought suicide a scandal that should be concealed" (page 280). Judy and her sister Mimi thought quite the opposite.

After Sue Kaufman's death at fifty years old, Krantz launched her own spectacularly lucrative career as writer, starting in her fifties. She eventually wrote twelve novels, all of them published between 1978 and 1998 and half of them adapted into TV mini-series. My favorite Krantz novel title:
I'll Take Manhattan (1986). Evidently, Judy Tarcher Krantz had the popular pulse of the 80s and 90s: we're talking tens of millions of copies sold, and many millions of dollars made -- quite a feat for any writer, as well as a boon for the publishing industry and for other writers.

Happy Black Friday, folks!



Adorably Dead said...

I don't believe I've ever heard of Judith Krantz. Although the book looks interesting. I love reading autobiographies of people.

the walking man said...

We are getting old.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Why am I thinking of Leonard Coen when I read: I'll Take Manhattan?

Mark Krone said...

Interesting, as always, Erik. As I've mentioned before, Kaufman lived one floor below me in the late 60s and tragically, she appeared to have jumped from her apartment on the 12th floor, not 18th as Krantz stated. There are 15 floors in that building. You have come the closest to actually making me want to read Krantz. Close, but still not quite there :-)
I still haven't read Diary of a Mad Housewife! I need to get to that.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Erik Donald France said...

Thanks all for the comments! AD, all those millions of books and vanished for the next generation.
WM: ditto. JR, indeed, it's an older song, but his is "First We Take Manhattan," also a good title. Mark Krone: good to hear from you, man! Thanks for the clarification. On the internet, saw this inscription in a copy of Diary: "To Mabel Frohlich who is the model for my heroine. --Sue Kaufman". And elsewhere, a Mabel Froehlich (8/4/1920-4/9/1989). Endless puzzles for a biographer. Three cheers'

Mark Krone said...


Can you believe that the signd inscribed copy of Diary is going for $17,500?? There must be some interest in Kaufman out there. And who is Mabel Froelich??!!


eda said...