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Rebecca West: A Woman Of Independent Ways
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext) - Washington, D.C.
Author: Drabelle, Dennis
Date: Oct 4, 1987
Start Page: x.05

These and other sallies pepper [Victoria Glendinning]'s biography of the writer she once called "the most interesting woman of this century in England." Glendinning specializes in Lives of Female Greats-Edith Sitwell, Vita Sackville-West, Elizabeth Bowen. She knew [Rebecca West], and the new book evinces a rapport between biographer and subject that sets it above the others, excellent though they are. Yet Glendinning seems to have resisted temptations-and there must have been many-to soften her judgments for the sake of memorializing a friendship.

GLENDINNING KNEW Rebecca West in her grande damehood: best-selling novelist; proto-New Journalist who covered the Nuremberg Trials for The New Yorker; author of the mammoth, genre-bursting travel book Black Lamb and Grey Falcon; and peerless raconteur. The book closes with a vignette-both triste and tonic-of the panther in extreme old age (she died in 1983, at 90). "Her visitors . . . waiting in the drawing room {of her London apartment} might be disturbed by loud groans of `Oh God, oh God' from the bedroom, as Dame Rebecca divested herself of the old dressing-gown in which she worked and strove to dress herself, crippled by arthritis, in pain from diverticulitis; `Oh God, oh God' again as, with her housekeeper's help, she rummaged for her hearing-aid and the right pair of spectacles. But then Dame Rebecca made her entrance, in a gold-braided kaftan, supported on a malacca cane, two or three pairs of spectacles swinging on cords around her neck, and proceeded to give the visitor the time of his life. It was hard to leave, and she would limp to the door to see her guest out-the impossible questions, the imperious opinions, and the laughter still pouring from her. Only when the door closed did the power cut out, and Dame Rebecca collapsed into grey exhaustion."

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