“Kay Boyle Lives” virtual panel session at the 32nd ALA Conference, July 7 -10, 2021
The panel, chaired by Sandra Spanier, opened on a paper by Anne Boyd Rioux, Professor of English at the University of New Orleans and a specialist in American women writers, who is writing a dual biography of Kay Boyle and her third husband, Joseph Franckenstein, covering the years 1934-1954. Indeed, Franckenstein’s experiences during and after the war cannot be dissociated from Boyle’s activism in prose and in life. Focusing on writings of this period—such as Primer for Combat, The Smoking Mountain, and some of her best short stories (“Men,” “Winter Night,” “The Lost,” and “Adam’s Death”), Boyd Rioux showed that Joseph’s experiences were crucial to Kay’s evolution as a writer in response to fascism. Then, Ian von Franckenstein, himself an author of both prose and poetry, told of time spent with Kay in and around the Redwoods during the last years of her life in Mill Valley. The third paper was given by Carol Piasente, an award-winner writer and the student of Kay Boyle at San Francisco State College, who is currently writing a bio-fictional novel about Kay Boyle’s love affair with the dying poet/editor Ernest Walsh, the birth of their daughter, and her emergence as a writer and poet in the expat Parisian literary crowd. She illustrated how bio-fiction differs from biography and history: voice, purpose, interiority, and speculation — not only what happened, but what could have happened. The fourth panelist was Krista Quesenberry, Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Albion College in Albion, Michigan, who focused on Boyle’s correspondence with New Directions publisher James Laughlin to illustrate how Boyle consistently worked to shape and promote an idiosyncratic, transnational literary community using her immense and fiery powers as an advocate.