Diehl, Margaret 1955–
DIEHL, Margaret 1955–
PERSONAL: Born 1955.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Soho Press, 853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003.
Men, Soho Press (New York, NY), 1988.
Me and You (novel), Soho Press (New York, NY), 1990.
The Boy on the Green Bicycle: A Memoir, Soho Press (New York, NY), 1999.
ADAPTATIONS: Men was adapted for a film directed by Zoe Clarke-Williams, 1997.
SIDELIGHTS: The heroine of Margaret Diehl's first novel, Men, lost her virginity at age fifteen, and at age twenty-one has become a woman who believes in hav-ing a wild sex life. Stella is smart and independent. She has just graduated from college, and because of the generous support of a grandmother, she can afford an upscale Manhattan apartment. As the novel begins, she is living with her former lover, whose alcoholism has cooled their status to that of friends. Stella has no qualms about her sexual appetites as she roams New York City's streets in search of conquests. While engaging in one-night stands, Stella feels almost no embarrassment or stress. As the story progresses, however, her losses are exposed: her parents deserted her as a child, and her first lover was gay. After a move to Berkeley, she meets and falls in love with Frank, a wealthy photographer, but when she reverts to her old habits, he gives her an ultimatum.
Jami McCarty wrote in a review for the Tucson Weekly online that, "In the style of Raymond Carver, we see what the characters do, as if watching from a window, and decide for ourselves the reasons why." In reviewing Men, for Chicago's Tribune Books, Richard Gehr wrote that the novel "can proudly take its place on the small shelf reserved for such middlebrow examples of feminist literature as Erica Jong's Fear of Flying and anything by Margaret Atwood."
Men are not the obsession of the protagonist of Me and You; alcohol is. Gwen began drinking with her father at age twelve. Her parents divorce, and, while sister Lucy goes with their mother, Gwen heads to California, where she becomes involved in an alcoholic, abusive relationship. After Lucy flies out to save her sister and bring her back to New York, Gwen joins Alcoholics Anonymous and retreats into a somewhat reclusive life, painting portraits of the dogs of wealthy women. When Lucy marries, Gwen begins an affair with Lucy's new father-in-law, Jack, a social misfit who writes science fiction.
Elizabeth Benedict pointed out in the New York Times Book Review that "in pursuing Jack, she is acting out the erotically charged relationship she had with her father, with the chance to rewrite the ending." Benedict concluded by saying that she admired Diehl "for taking on so boldly the subject of women drinkers in recovery and the delicate matter of fathers who, although they don't molest their daughters, inflict lasting harm with subtly seductive words and gestures." Sybil Steinberg wrote in Publishers Weekly that Diehl "writes convincingly about both alcohol addiction and the joys of erotic love," while a Kirkus Reviews writer noted that Me and You "is spiked with emotionally honest, no-holds-barred sex from a woman's point-of-view."
In The Boy on the Green Bicycle: A Memoir Diehl describes a comfortable childhood in Montclair, New Jersey that was shattered with the loss of both a brother and a father. Diehl's older brother and idol, Jimmy, died in a bicycle accident, and her father committed suicide shortly afterward because he felt he was to blame. Diehl's mother numbed herself with alcohol and moved her three remaining children, Diehl, Charlotte, and Johnny, to New York City. Diehl writes of her surviving brother's distress and threats of suicide, her sister's cruelty, and her own painful isolation and withdrawal into a world of books and sweets.
Stacy D'Erasmo wrote in the New York Times Book Review that The Boy on the Green Bicycle "scared me, and I mean that as a compliment. Instead of simply valorizing or sentimentalizing the imagination, Diehl gives it its due as a ferocious, drug-like force. The lion who looks like a friend to the fanciful child is also, as the adult knows, a wild animal. Diehl fearlessly inhabits both points of view. The subject of her book is less her brother and her cracked family than it is the ambiguous power of her own fantasy life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Diehl, Margaret, The Boy on the Green Bicycle: A Memoir, Soho Press (New York, NY), 1999.
American Journal of Psychiatry, December, 1999, Robert Michels, review of The Boy on the Green Bicycle, p. 2002.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 1989, review of Me and You, p. 1767.
Library Journal, May 1, 1999, Nancy R. Ives, review of The Boy on the Green Bicycle, p. 88.
New York Times Book Review, August 13, 1989, George Johnson, review of Men, p. 28; February 11, 1990, Elizabeth Benedict, review of Me and You, p. 28; June 13, 1999, Stacey D'Erasmo, review of The Boy on the Green Bicycle, p. 24.
Observer Review, February 5, 1989, Maureen Freely, review of Men, p. 43.
Publishers Weekly, January 19, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of Me and You, p. 96; March 29, 1999, review of The Boy on the Green Bicycle, p. 74.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), August 14, 1988, Richard Gehr, review of Men, p. 6.
Tucson Weekly Online, http://www.weeklywire.com/ (February 23, 1998), Jami Macarty, review of Men.