It was the wise DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince who so articulately phrased it: There’s no need to argue, parents just don’t understand. Even when they are loving and well-meaning, parents are misguided. They don’t “get it”. Worse than that, they are uncool. Ten years after that song was released, the Fresh Prince, having long relinquished his crown, became a father himself. We here at Bloom wonder if he’s ever reconsidered those lyrics.
Bloomer Paula Whyman offers a more complicated vision of parenthood in her latest linked story collection, You May See a Stranger. Whyman, both a longtime writer and proud mother, built up an impressive resume prior to her debut collection’s release, writing for publications like Bethesda Magazine and The Rumpus as well as working as a clerk in acustom T-shirt shop, among other odd jobs. She is currently a visiting writer for the Pen/Faulkner Foundation’s Writers in Schools program in DC, The Hudson Review’s Writers in Schools and CUNY College Now program in New York. The stories in her collection all focus on one woman, Miranda Weber, following her from drivers ed as a teen well into the uncertainties of motherhood. This month, Whyman sat down with Michele Filgate of Electric Literature to discuss the novel and the way motherhood is depicted in it. Read Whyman’s thoughts on her complicated protagonist for yourself here and then check out our own recent Q&A with Whyman here.
Even when parenting isn’t at the forefront, an author’s experience as a parent undoubtedly affects the writing and/or his creative timing. Bloomer Paul Vidich, whose political thriller, An Honorable Man, was released back in April, always had a love of writing, but his path to authorship has been a long and winding one. Vidich’s debut novel hit shelves when, at age fifty-five, he had retired from successful careers at Warner Music and AOL and already raised three sons. In an interview with the Fiction Writer’s Review, Vidich discusses how his growing family’s dependence on his income kept him focused on his lucrative career, as opposed to writing, for many years. However, Vidich doesn’t seem bothered by this. He jokes that he was forty-five before he wrote his first “honest thing”. This month, a roomful of lucky fans in Massachusetts got to listen to Vidich read from his new novel at the Brookline Booksmith, and another roomful at Politics & Prose Bookstore in DC heard him both read and chat about life and art with our own Sonya Chung. Look out for the interview on their website. Until then, head over there and listen to bloomer Kim Addonizio read new poems and talk about her new memoir Bukowski in a Sundress.
Speaking of politics, some might say that it takes a village to raise an artist. So many beloved, celebrated writers have become inseparable from the places in which they spent their formative years: Flannery O’Conner and Georgia, Grace Paley and New York. The same could be said of bloomer Donald Ray Pollock and Ohio. Pollock, having lived his whole life in Ohio, was fifty before he quit his job at the Mead Paper Mill to pursue writing at Ohio State University. His sophomore novel, The Heavenly Table, alternates between the story of three southern brothers-turned-fugitives, the Jewettes, and the Fiddlers, a troubled Ohio family. Read our interview from 2013 with Pollock here, and listen to Vick Michunas’s interview with Pollock here.
Of course, literature is full of truly sinister parents, from the wicked stepmothers ofchildren’s fairy tales to Joan Crawford in Christina Crawford’s infamous Mommy Dearest. Last year, bloomer Claire Fuller won the 2015 Desmond Elliot Prize for her debut novel Our Endless Numbered Days. The novel, told as a flashback, tells the story of a young girl kidnapped by her father, who keeps her hidden in the woods with him under the pretense that an apocalyptic event has destroyed the rest of the world. More recently, Fuller has been recognized once again for her short fiction. Her story “A Quiet Tidy Man” received the Royal Academy & Pin Drop Short Story Award. You can listen to actress Juliet Stevenson read it here. Stevenson, a bloomer and parent herself, was cast in her first break-out role at the age of 35, opposite Alan Rickman, in the 1991 film Truly, Madly, Deeply.
In other news, the Minneapolis Institute of Art celebrated some of the art world’s great forefathers this month in a new exhibit featuring the collection of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Bloomers Claude Monet and Edward Hopper are just a few names on the list of American masters featured in the exhibit. While Monet began painting earlier on in life, he was in his early forties before he painted what would become his most enduring works. Likewise, Hopper sold his first painting at 31 but was well into his forties before he gained recognition in the art world. The collection will remain at the Institute until September 18th, so pack your bag and get going before the leaves start changing.
Wrapping up, here’s a video of bloomer and musician John Ondrasik of Five For Fighting offering some simple but sweet parenting advice on a recent episode of the Youtube series, My Life As A Dad. Five for Fighting’s hit single, “100 Years”, debuted in 2000 when Ondrasik was 39. Chances are, you’ve heard the tune before. Still, give it another listen and try to feel “fifteen for a moment”.
Cara Dempsey teaches in Brooklyn and writes anywhere that will let her use the WiFi. Her fiction has been featured or is forthcoming in Hobart, MonkeyBicycle, and Paper Darts.
Homepage photo credit: Brett Davies via Flickr