Book Review: Inside the mind, life and friendships that created Harriet the Spy

“In her new biography of Fitzhugh, “Sometimes You Have to Lie,” Leslie Brody identifies parallels between the author’s life and art, delightful details for fans of Fitzhugh’s creations. Ole Golly, the beloved nanny whose departure from the Welsches’ Manhattan home is the organizing trauma of “Harriet the Spy,” is probably an amalgamation of the nannies Fitzhugh knew growing up in a Memphis mansion during the Great Depression, pampered in isolation. The therapist who helps Harriet through that loss may draw from Bertram Slaff, a psychiatrist whom Fitzhugh saw during her years living in New York City, where she pursued love and ambition as a gay artist enmeshed in a network of “successful, creative, pleasure loving, ambitious, knowledgeable lesbians,” as one friend described her circle. And Harrison Withers, the bird cage designer with a skylight big enough for Harriet to spy through, cares for 26 cats whose names include not just Fitzhugh’s preferred literary luminaries (Thomas Wolfe, Dostoevsky, Faulkner) but also some of her close friends (Alex, Sandra, Marijane).” Read more…