Fleming, Anne Taylor 1950-
FLEMING, Anne Taylor 1950-
PERSONAL: Born 1950, in CA; married Karl Fleming (a journalist).
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Hyperion Books, 77 West 66th St., 11th Fl., New York, NY 10023.
CAREER: Journalist, author, radio and television commentator. Essayist, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, PBS; contributor to News Night, CNN.
(With husband, Karl Fleming) The First Time, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1975.
Motherhood Deferred: A Woman's Journey, G. P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 1994.
Marriage: A Duet (two novellas), Hyperion (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to periodicals, including the Los Angeles Magazine, New York Times, New Yorker, Redbook, Vogue, and Newsweek.
SIDELIGHTS: Freelance writer and media commentator Anne Taylor Fleming documents her struggle to conceive a child in Motherhood Deferred: A Woman's Journey. Fleming was one of many feminists who put off having a family in favor of furthering her career, and when she did decide to become a mother, found that conception was impossible. Her memoir is of this failure and of her life leading up to it.
According to Fleming, she and her sister were born into a privileged family, the daughters of successful Hollywood actors who were able to provide them with a comfortable life and private education. Fleming writes that her parents divorced "with rare grace, and we were never batted around between them or made pawns in any leftover business of theirs." When she was sixteen, Fleming met her husband-to-be, a married writer twice her age and the father of four sons. He divorced, and when she graduated college, they married. Inspired by feminist writers like Betty Friedan (The Feminine Mystique) and Simone de Beauvoir (The Second Sex), Fleming pursued her writing career.
Fleming writes that she was influenced in her decision not to begin a family by the "sacrificial generation" of women who put off having children. Newsweek reviewer Laura Shapiro wrote that "this is sticky stuff. It badly misrepresents the women's movement, which did a lot more agitating for day care than issuing decrees against childbearing." Shapiro called "genuinely gripping" the second half of the book, where Fleming turns to the rounds of disappointment and hope through which she cycled, and said it "captures the sadness of her plight."
When Fleming failed to conceive, she underwent all of the available procedures. Commentary reviewer Rachel Abrams wrote that "every encounter with a syringe, a petrie dish, a scanner, and a stirrup, each drop of sperm in the seemingly endless stream supplied by her obliging husband, then washed and counted and mounted via laparoscope, every failure of every mechanically fertilized embryo to implant itself in her uterus, Mrs. Fleming faithfully, one is tempted to say lovingly, records."
Booklist contributor Alice Joyce recommended Motherhood Deferred "for baby boomers who have reached a point of reassessment in their own lives." A Publishers Weekly contributor felt that most readers "will appreciate her [Fleming's] hard-won insights."
Marriage: A Duet comprises two novellas, the plots of which revolve around marital infidelity. In A Married Woman, Caroline Betts dyes her hair in the bathroom of her husband's hospital room as he lays dying, and she recalls an affair he had with a young friend of their daughter some fifteen years earlier and the long period of repair to their damaged marriage that followed. Shannon Bloomstran noted for Mostly Fiction online that Caroline is a very private person who thinks rather than says what she is feeling, "and so we are privy to her every erudite and elegantly icy thought about the affair."
The second novella, A Married Man, is a story of successful businessman whose wife reveals that she had a one-night stand with a party guest in the back seat of a car. David, the devoted husband and father, is dragged by his wife to a television "forgiveness" therapist, and it is during these sessions that most of the humorous lines appear. Bloomstran described David as a "snarky adolescent, unwilling or unable to let go of his humiliation. David is so sexually attracted to his wife that he's willing to forsake her and their children because someone else has touched her." Bloomstran wrote that this novella "is much more graphic, digging up a more raw and unsophisticated grief than the first, and ties in all sorts of ruminations about male and female roles." Booklist's Donna Seaman said that Fleming "evinces remarkable insights into intimacy and betrayal" and "writes with extraordinary exactitude about sex, family life, loss, sorrow." A Publishers Weekly contributor called Fleming "a thoughtful, intelligent writer whose arch humor and dead-on dialogue suggest great potential for subsequent novels."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Fleming, Anne Taylor, Motherhood Deferred: A Woman's Journey, G. P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 1994.
Booklist, April 15, 1994, Alice Joyce, review of Motherhood Deferred: A Woman's Journey, p. 1482; November 15, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of Marriage: A Duet, p. 568.
Commentary, November, 1994, Rachel Abrams, review of Motherhood Deferred, p. 74.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2002, review of Marriage, p. 1493.
Library Journal, November 1, 2002, Robin Nesbitt, review of Marriage, p. 131.
Los Angeles Magazine, February, 2003, Robert Ito, review of Marriage, p. 112.
Newsweek, June 20, 1994, Laura Shapiro, review of Motherhood Deferred, pp. 68-70.
Publishers Weekly, May 2, 1994, review of Motherhood Deferred, p. 293; January 13, 2003, review of Marriage: A Duet, p. 41.
MostlyFiction.com,http://www.mostlyfiction.com/ (January 9, 2003), Shannon Bloomstran, review of Marriage.*