Cuffing season is over, and breakup season is here. Snopes confirms that more couples split in January and February than any other time of year, so if you didn’t get your heart broken over the holidays, you might soon. If you or one of your friends has recently gone through a breakup, we have the perfect solution: Jennifer Wright’s new-ish book It Ended Badly: 13 Of The Worst Breakups In History.
If you’ve ever sent a few too many drunk texts to your ex (guilty) or been way too blatant with your bitter subtweets (same), at least you didn’t mail your ex a package of your own pubes and blood, like Lord Byron’s ex Caroline Lamb did. If you took way, way, wayyyyyyy too long to get over a “just hanging out” faux-relationship (been there), at least you didn’t spend your life pining over a fling with a serial seducer of novelists, like Edith Wharton did. Some of the breakup stories are familiar (Henry VIII executing his wives), and some are less so (German artist Oskar Kokoschka replacing his ex with a sex doll he brought with him everywhere, Lars and the Real Girl-style), but all are immensely entertaining thanks to Wright’s playful, compassionate storytelling.
Wright puts a much-appreciated feminist spin on many of the stories. Take this passage on Norman Mailer, who stabbed his wife not once but TWICE and faced absolutely no consequences:
This is going to be a very different portrait of Norman Mailer than the ones from biographers who fawningly describe how big and blustering and full of life he was. And, man, there are a lot of those. Sometimes it seems as if men who are even a little bit intelligent and “literary” are able to get away with more than human beings should be allowed to get away with. If a female celebrity gets a weird tattoo or haircut or makes the ill-advised decision to turn forty-five, people decide she’s crazy, which, as Tina Fey says, is how people describe women they don’t want to sleep with anymore. If a male celebrity in the twentieth century tries to murder his wife, people decide he is...dashing. Somehow? Like a love pirate?
Equally compelling is Wright’s compassion toward many of the women in the stories. The thirteenth and most recent breakup story goes from documenting the trainwreck love triangle between Elizabeth Taylor, Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds to touchingly describing Taylor and Reynold’s enduring friendship. “There is something about enduring a breakup with the same man that has the potential to turn women into war buddies,” she writes.
So if you’ve gone through a breakup, stock up on Haagen-Daz, block your ex’s number, get drunk with your friends and buy this book. Oh, and be easy on yourself. At least you aren’t dealing as badly as Lucrezia Borgia.
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