Allowing a woman to have a byline in print was one sort of progress. Permitting her to deliver the news over the airwaves was downright revolutionary. Yet over at one of the nation’s newest programs, the prevailing concern wasn’t the status of women. For the small staff churning out 90 minutes of All Things Considered, navigating the free-for-all chaos of the daily program was enough of a challenge.
It didn’t help—in fact, it hurt quite a lot—that since the show’s debut, no structure had been put in place. It wasn’t always even clear who’d show up for work each day. Whoever arrived at the office first in the morning found themselves that day’s producer—vetting breaking news, wrangling the reports gathered in the field, making sure they’d been spliced down and mixed and prepared for air, booking telephone interviews with guests (an inexpensive way to pad out the time), writing copy, sifting through the poorly catalogued pile of taped story submissions from affiliates in search of stories they might use, and assembling all the pieces into a loose-fitting “road map” so as to fill the promised 90 minutes. With so few staff reporters, everyone pitched in, assigning themselves whatever stories sounded interesting, with little direction or oversight and even less—make that no—editing.
At the height of Hitchcock’s fame, in the fifties and sixties, Reville combined the culinary traditions of France, Britain, and the United States in her kitchen, an embodiment of the kind of sophisticated American domestic cook that Julia Child communicated through her books and TV shows. Yet in an ironic subtext worthy of a Hitchcock classic, Reville’s cooking also represented something of the emotional complexity that attended being married to the Master of Suspense. Though Reville gave Hitchcock his Proustian flashes of home with Yorkshire puddings and Sunday roasts, and bolstered his idea of himself as a man of taste and discernment with classic French dishes, she was also the one who filled the Hitchcock home with the food that Alfred found so hard to resist.
For Alma, however, food never had a dark side. To the woman who was known by many as “Mrs. Hitchcock,” cooking became a means of creative expression separate from that of the Hitchcock juggernaut, a project to which she contributed so much for so long, but which also underscored the lost potential of her own adventures in film.
The pandemic has worsened my longing, making it impossible for me to engage in one of my favorite homesick-for-New-York stopgaps: traveling there for work, something that allows me to feel like a professional in a way that working from home upstate never has, while also letting me spend time recreating in the place I adore most in all the world.
Although Rankin-Gee’s nuanced, astute world building deserves applause, it’s this relationship that holds the novel together, in large part because it feels so real.
But Hough's book isn't really a cult memoir — it's about so much more than that (and it's also quite funny, although you'll have to take my word on that because most of the funny bits include expletives I can't quote here). Slowly, essay after essay, it becomes clear that she's drawing parallels between the Family and good ol' fashioned American Exceptionalism in all its various facets, from rah-rah-'Merica attitudes surrounding freedom to the worship of individualism to the demands of capitalism.