By Vicraj Gill
This month at Bloom, we’ve seen many stories of success—those that speak to the value of perseverance and sheer, dogged determination, like those of Madeleine L’Engle; and those from authors like Daniel Orozco, Joseph M. Schuster, and Pauline A. Chen which teach us that no experience is without use in writing.
First: our hearty congratulations to our very own Nicole Wolverton, Bloom editorial assistant, whose debut novel, a wildly inventive psychological thriller, The Trajectory of Dreams, is out in stores today. The next few weeks will see Nicole on a three-week “virtual book tour” around the Web from March 3 to 23. A full schedule of the tour can be found here. Nicole will also be doing several live readings and signings, for readers in and around West Reading and New Hope, Pennsylvania—see her events calendar for more details.
From The Guardian’s Books blog, a piece from 2011 by Amanda Craig came to our attention: Craig looks back on her career, and the lives of the writers she’s admired, and wonders what relation age and experience have on one’s achievements as an author, particularly for women with families. Her sentiments are similar to Tillie Olsen’s—middle-age and the labors of raising a family often impact the public’s opinions of a writer’s reach and worth. (Check out relevant excerpts from Olsen’s Silences here.) On the other hand, she concludes her post with this: “On the whole, good and great fiction is not written by beautiful people who feel successful. It’s written by the person who is most overlooked, all their life, and who understands things about the human condition which is very different from that of the experience of the 25-year-old part-time model.”
In the acting world, Susan Dominus’s profile of actress Connie Britton at the New York Times touches on many of the same concerns. Dominus traces Britton’s path, from the role she got—and lost (to Renee Zellweger)—in Jerry Maguire, to her triumphs on FX’s American Horror Story, and the network television series Friday Night Lights and Nashville. She also gives us a fascinating look at Britton’s determination to work on her own terms when it comes to her career choices, the characters she plays, or the time she takes for herself and her family.
Another of our featured authors this month, George Eliot, gets some attention at Open Letters Monthly, where Rohan Maitzen explores the notion of a story of success in another sense—is the ending of Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, she asks, a successful, believable one?
Over at Bookslut, Terry Hong (who wrote our two features on Pauline A. Chen last month) sat down for an interview with another Bloomer, novelist and mathematician Manil Suri. Suri’s latest novel, The City of Devi, was released in February. He’s also known for his well-lauded 2001 debut, The Death of Vishnu, one of a “triptych” of novels that feature fantastic versions of contemporary Mumbai. The interview reveals both the early interest Suri had in writing fiction, and the circuitous path he took to publishing, along with fascinating insights into his career as a math professor, and his identity as a gay writer of color.
On the more sober side of things, Dwight Allen at the Los Angeles Review of Books takes a look at Philip Roth’s recent retirement from literature, weighing it alongside the legend of baseball pitcher Steve Blass (famous for his late-career struggles, chronicled by writer Roger Angell in a series of essays for the New Yorker). His piece, “Leaving the Field,” ponders the question of what one does if the drive to write fiction begins to die. While not quite the same story as the others we’ve encountered this month, Allen’s brave, clear-eyed look at the rewards and trials of the literary life is well worth a read.
Finishing things up on a lighter note: for those whose stories are still in the making, Seth Fried at Tin House offers his suggestions on how to interpret your rejection letters.