Leaf through old New York Times reviews of the novels of Maude Hutchins - from the 1950s and early 1960s especially, when her reputation was at its height - and one is instantly struck by it: the old-maid-like embarrassment she aroused in her critics. Not one of them could get through an essay about her, it seems, without a biddyish dilation on the carnality of her themes. 'Maude Hutchins,' James Kelly wrote in 1955, does 'as she pleases' as a novelist and 'to date what has pleased her most is s-e-x as observed and enjoyed from the feminine vantage point.' Hutchins, Maxwell Geismar said, was a writer who went about 'describing casually all the "taboo" subjects that are perhaps better repressed'. 'A career of this kind,' Stanley Kauffmann wrote in 1964,
that takes sexual and other sensory pleasures so seriously, is unusual. Many novelists pass through such a period, but there comes a time when 'then they went to bed' suffices; or when the bed is to society what war was to von Clausewitz, a continuation of politics by other means. To remain as interested intrinsically in sex as Colette was all her life long, and as Mrs Hutchins continues to be, requires an almost monastic single-mindedness.
LRB 3 July 2008 | PDF Download