A writer of poems, short
stories, novels, and nonfiction commentaries, Ellen Gilchrist is
a diverse writer whom critics have praised repeatedly for her subtle
perceptions, unique characters, and sure command of the writers
voice, as well as her innovative plotlines set in her native Mississippi.
As Sabine Durrant commented in the London Times, her writing
swings between the familiar and the shocking, the everyday
and the traumatic.... She writes about ordinary happenings in out
of the way places, of meetings between recognizable characters from
her other fiction and strangers, above all of domestic routine disrupted
by violence. The world of her fiction is awry; the surprise
ending, although characteristic of her works, can still shock the
reader. It is disorienting stuff, noted Durrant, but
controlled always by Gilchrists wry tone and gentle insight.
She was born February 20, 1935,
in Vicksburg, Mississippi. She earned a B.A. from Millsaps College
in 1967, and later did postgraduate study at the University of Arkansas
in Fayetteville. She has worked as an author and journalist, as
a contributing editor for the Vieux Carre Courier from 1976-1979,
and as a commentator on National Public Radios Morning
Edition from 1984-1985. Her commentaries from NPR have been
published in her book Falling Through Space (1987, 2000).
Gilchrists first book was
a book of poetry, The Land Surveyors Daughter (1979).
A few years later, she followed it up with Riding Out the Tropical
Depression: Selected Poems, 1975-1985 (1986).
But it was as a fiction writer that
she has garnered the most attention. She attracted critical and
popular accolades from the publication of her book of short fiction,
In the Land of Dreamy Dreams, in 1981. In its first ten
months in print, the volume sold more than 10,000 copies in the
Southwest alone, a feat particularly impressive given that the book
was published by a university press and thus lacked the usual promotional
campaigns common from larger publishers. Critics shared the publics
opinion of the book. In a review for the Washington Post Book
World, Susan Wood wrote, Gilchrist may serve as prime
evidence for the optimists among us who continue to believe that
few truly gifted writers remain unknown forever. And Gilchrist is
the real thing alright. In fact, its difficult to review a
first book as good as this without resorting to every known superlative
cliche there are, after all, just so many ways to say auspicious
Gilchrist followed up with her first
novel, The Anunciation, in 1983, and the following year,
a second collection of stories, Victory Over Japan, which
won the 1984 American Book Award for fiction. Like her earlier collection,
it too was received warmly by critics. Beverly Lowry in the New
York Times Book Review wrote, Those who loved In the
Land of Dreamy Dreams will not be disappointed. Many of the
same characters reappear.... Often new characters show up with old
names.... These crossovers are neither distracting nor accidental....
Ellen Gilchrist is only changing costumes, and she can do
wonderful tricks with her voice.
Gilchrist has continued to publish
fiction, alternating between short story collections and novels.
Although some critics have found her more recent work to be more
uneven, most concede that such unevenness is only in
relation to the tremendous achievement of her earliest work.
In 2000, Gilchrist published Collected
Stories, which features 34 stories from seven different collections
spanning her career.
first posted December 2001)
Links & Info
can read more about Ellen Gilchrist at this
page, part of the Mississippi
Writers and Musicians web site at Starkville High School,
Fiction (Short Stories):
- In the Land of Dreamy Dreams. Fayetteville: University
of Arkansas Press, 1981; reissued, Little, Brown (Boston), 1985.
- Victory over Japan: A Book of Stories. Boston: Little,
- Drunk with Love. Boston: Little, Brown, 1986.
- Two Stories: Some Blue Hills at Sundown and
The Man Who Kicked Cancers Ass. New York:
Albondocani Press, 1988.
- Light Can Be Both Wave and Particle: A Book of Stories.
Boston: Little, Brown, 1989.
- I Cannot Get You Close Enough: Three Novellas. Boston:
Little, Brown, 1990.
- The Age of Miracles: Stories. Boston: Little, Brown,
- Rhoda: A Life in Stories. Boston: Little, Brown,
- The Courts of Love: A Novella and Stories. Boston:
Little, Brown, 1996.
- Flights of Angels: Stories. Boston: Little, Brown,
- The Cabal and Other Stories. Boston: Little, Brown,
- Collected Stories. Boston: Little, Brown, 2000.
- I, Rhoda Manning, Go Hunting with My Daddy, And Other Stories.
Boston: Little, Brown, 2002.
- The Annunciation. Boston: Little, Brown, 1983.
- The Anna Papers. Boston: Little, Brown, 1988.
- Net of Jewels. Boston: Little, Brown, 1992.
- Starcarbon: A Meditation of Love. Boston: Little,
- Anabasis: A Journey to the Interior. Jackson: University
Press of Mississippi, 1994.
- Sarah Conley. Boston: Little, Brown, 1997.
- The Land Surveyors Daughter. Fayetteville,
Ark.: Lost Roads Pub. Co., 1979.
- Riding out the Tropical Depression: Selected Poems, 1975-1985.
New Orleans: Faust, 1986.
- Falling Through Space: The Journals of Ellen Gilchrist.
Boston: Little, Brown, 1987; reissued with additional material,
Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2000.
Critical Books and Articles:
- Bain, Robert. Ellen Gilchrist. Contemporary Fiction
Writers of the South: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook. Eds.
Joseph M. Flora and Robert Bain. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1993.
- Bauer, Margaret. Ellen Gilchrists False Eden: The
New Orleans Stories of In the Land of Dreamy Dreams.
Xavier Review 16.1 (1996): 88-107.
- ---. The Evolution of Caddy: An Intertextual Reading of
The Sound and the Fury and Ellen Gilchrists The
Annunciation. Southern Literary Journal 25.1 (Fall
- ---. Water and Women: Ellen Gilchrist Explores Two Life
Sources. Louisiana Literature: A Review of Literature &
Humanities 7.2 (Fall 1992): 82-90.
- Bauer, Margaret Donovan. The Fiction of Ellen Gilchrist. Gainesville:
UP of Florida, 1999.
- Bolsterli, Margaret Jones. Ellen Gilchrists Characters
and the Southern Womans Experience: Rhoda Mannings Double
Bind and Anna Hands Creativity. New Orleans Review
15.1 (Spring 1988): 7-9.
- Ellen Gilchrists and Clifton Taulberts Portrayals
of Glen Allan. Notes on Mississippi Writers 24.2 (July
- Johnson, Tonya Stremlau. Ellen Gilchrists Rhoda: Managing
the Fiction. The Southern Quarterly 35.4 (Summer 1997):
- Komins, Benton Jay. The Convoluted Logic of Creolization
the New Orleans Way. The Comparatist: Journal of the Southern
Comparative Literature Association 24 (May 2000): 99-122.
- LaRue, Dorie. Progress and Prescription: Ellen Gilchrists
Southern Belles. The Southern Quarterly 31.3 (Spring
- McDonnell, Jane Taylor. Controlling the Past and the Future:
Two-Headed Anna in Ellen Gilchrists The Anna Papers.
The Anna Book: Searching for Anna in Literary History. Ed. Mickey
Pearlman. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1992. 187-93.
- McKay, Mary. A. Ellen Gilchrist. New York: Twayne, 1997.
- Thompson, Jeanie, and Anita Miller Garner. The Miracle of
Realism: The Bid for Self-Knowledge in the Fiction of Ellen Gilchrist.
The Southern Quarterly 22.1 (Fall 1983): 101-14.
- Wagner-Martin, Linda. The Anna (Aspern) Papers. Notes
on Contemporary Literature 21.1 (January 1991): 2.
- Wilson, Martha, and Gwendolyn Sell. A Conversation with
Ellen Gilchrist. Arkansas Review 5.1-2 (August 1996):
- Woodland, J. Randal. New People in the Old Museaum
of New Orleans: Ellen Gilchrist, Sheila Bosworth, and Nancy
Lemann. Louisiana Women Writers: New Essays and a Comprehensive
Bibliography. Eds. Dorothy H. Brown and Barbara C. Ewell. Baton
Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1992. 195-210.
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