From unpromising beginnings, Mary Duncan went out and got a life. Granddaughter of a bootlegger, she grew up in an unfashionable suburb of San Diego. Her father was a bus driver who died when she was four; her mother worked in a bar to support the kids.
Mary played sports, did well in school and married a Protestant minister. Teaching leisure and tourism administration at San Diego State University, she worked her way up to become head of department. Research on playgrounds in troubled locales took her to Belfast, Tehran and Managua. For years she had a surreptitious affair with ’60s guru Max Lerner, much of it at the Playboy Mansion West.
Through Max among others, she developed a fascination for Henry Miller, Simone de Beauvoir and pioneers of the sexual revolution. Literary interests went with her to Moscow, where she married a second time and founded a Shakespeare and Company bookstore. Her transit now is between California and Paris, where she delves into subjects as diverse as Kafka’s last mistress and Northern Ireland after ‘the troubles’.
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