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Book review: 'Irrepressible: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford' by Leslie Brody

The story of Jessica Mitford's life follows her British society beginnings to her communist activities and investigative projects in the U.S.

December 15, 2010|By Liz Brown | Special to the Los Angeles Times

At one point, Brody compares Mitford's radical journalism to the emerging New Journalism, but it's too bad that there isn't more of an effort to frame Mitford and her work in a larger context. From one angle as a gadfly eager to mine outrage, Mitford is a forerunner to Michael Moore. An investigative journalist going undercover to reveal unfair trade practices, she is a precursor to Barbara Ehrenreich. A hyper-connected grand dame of politics and cocktail parties, at once in the news and behind the scenes, she foretells Arianna Huffington. As an expatriated British writer with a contrarian streak, she presages Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens. (Hitchens wrote the preface to the reissue of her memoir "Hons and Rebels.")

More timeline than analysis, "Irrepressible" is comprehensive yet rushed. It ends with Mitford's funeral in 1996 — again, fitting in one respect but stopping short of deeply examining her legacy. Maybe another book to be written.

Brown has written for Bookforum and the London Review of Books.

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