Reading list: Wendy Wasserstein’s memorable works
”She would want to be remembered as an articulate and passionate spokesperson for her generation of women,” says Bishop. ”And, as the dust clears, I suspect she’ll be remembered as much more of a trailblazer than people think.” These five books are all those things and more: hilarious, heartfelt, and published proof that even a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright worries about the size of her thighs.
The Heidi Chronicles & Other Plays (Vintage) This chronological collection begins with Uncommon Women and Others, an ode to all-girls’ schooling and formative female friendships. The second act is Isn’t It Romantic, in which single Janie Blumberg contemplates (then eschews) happily-ever-after with a standard-issue Jewish doctor. And the finale is Heidi, Wasserstein’s best (and, in many ways, saddest) work, which follows a feminist art historian’s seemingly futile search for happiness.
Bachelor Girls (Vintage) In this compulsively readable collection of essays, the warm, witty author riffs on her mother Lola, manicures (”Are well-buffed nails the hallmark of post-feminism?”), diet doctors, body hair, and other pressing issues.
The Sisters Rosensweig (Harcourt Brace) Inspired by Chekhov and (undoubtedly) by her own spectacular siblings, Wasserstein penned what she herself deemed a ”mature” meditation on family and ”personal history,” a portrait of three outwardly successful but inwardly struggling middle-aged women.
Pamela’s First Musical (Hyperion) Everyone from Ethel Merman to Nathan Lane is referenced in this terrific children’s tome, a lavishly illustrated, over-the-top ode to the the-a-tah.
Shiksa Goddess (Or, How I Spent My Forties) (Knopf) A second set of essays includes an imaginary interview with Bette Midler; a tribute to Ginger, her ”fuzzy orange Creamsicle” Calico cat; an account of her sister Sandra’s struggle with breast cancer; and, the most poignant piece, ”Days of Awe: The Birth of Lucy Jane,” a chronicle of Wasserstein’s very private pregnancy and the arrival of her premature daughter. — Melissa Rose Bernardo