The first season of Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” about a brassy 1950s housewife-turned-stand-up-comic, debuted last fall to swoony reviews (including one from the The Times which described Midge Maisel’s “bon mots rattling like ice in a cocktail shaker”). Though the second season of the cult-favorite show has just landed, many fans have hurtled through it at breakneck speed and are already in withdrawal. If you’re one of them, we’ve got some books for you to read.
‘The Group,’ by Mary McCarthy
The classic novel about eight young women — all Vassar graduates, all constrained by the men in their lives — and their encounters with a postwar future.
The 1950s were groundbreaking years for comedy, moving from witticisms and quips to a new brand of self-aware, social commentary, delivered with bite by the likes of Phyllis Diller and Dick Gregory.
One of Ephron’s most beloved essay collections, subtitled “Some Things About Women,” is a contrarian confrontation with the feminist revolution and its occasional humorlessness.
This 1968 lexicon codified words like “kvetch” and “schlep” in American English (and surely had a place of honor on the Maisel’s own bookshelf).
Marjorie’s story — a young Jewish girl in the 1930s who wants to be an actress — captured the assimilatory aspirations of American Jews (and was turned into a movie in 1958 starring Natalie Wood).
From the cafes of Greenwich Village to Harlem’s jazz scene, New York in the 1950s was a city with creative energy to spare. Wakefield’s history is crammed with the era’s larger than life personalities: Norman Mailer, Thelonious Monk, Jack Kerouac and so many more.
The ultimate boundary pusher (and a force in the life of the fictional Midge Maisel), Bruce pulled the tablecloth out from under comedy’s respectable gags and one-liners. Delivered in his inimitable voice, this memoir captures all that was taboo-bursting about Bruce.
If Midge is modeled on anyone, it’s Joan Rivers, who broke down boundaries as a brash, crass, unapologetic truth-teller about the degradations women face when they aspire to more.
From Elaine May to Chelsea Handler, women have eked out a central role for themselves in comedy. But it has been a fraught, hard road, one that Kohen details from both on stage and behind the scenes.
Published in 1958, this novel about the personal and professional struggles of five young women at a New York publishing house was shocking in its time.
Why are Jews so funny? Dauber answers this question by looking at the long trajectory of Jewish history.
If Midge Maisel is breaking free to experience a new sort of city life, the backdrop for this liberation is the world that John Cheever describes so well, one of stultifying conformity and constant disillusion.