Dorothy Parker created a heroine who responded to the ringing of her doorbell, "What fresh hell can this be?" In a sense, Parker's question suggests the cultic appeal of women otherwise as diverse as Emily Dickinson, Judy Garland, Edith Piaf, and Simone Weil. Indeed, Dickinson's epigrammatic couplet, "Parting is all we know of heaven,/ And all we need of hell," somehow describes the dilemma all four women confronted for their variously "admiring Bog[s]." In 1938, Simone Weil wrote a letter to Georges Bernanos on the occasion of the latter's "Les Grandes Cimetieres Sous la Lune," an account of France's offensive in Spain: "I recognized the smell of civil war, the smell of blood and terror, which exhales from your book; I have breathed it, too." Knowing hell and telling is the somehow redeeming power of Garland and Piaf as well. The child Garland had helped inspire the words of "Over the Rainbow": "Fantasy had been for her the only reality she knew, and she was trying always to chase these fantasies and seize them—and what was fantasy at its most pure but yearning for what lay on the other side of the rainbow in the sky?" … All four women stress a brave continuity whatever the hellish discontinuities of life. The similarities of these four women will be defined according to Dickinson's terms. It is as if she were one of the very first of their modern kind of pop and/or high cultists.
Hughes, James M.
"'What Fresh Hell …?' Cultus in Dickinson Garland, Piaf and Weil,"
University of Dayton Review: Vol. 19:
1, Article 16.
Available at: https://ecommons.udayton.edu/udr/vol19/iss1/16