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In the Land of Dreamy Dreams
(October 2002)
I, Rhoda Manning, Go Hunting with My Daddy, And Other Stories
(September 2002)
Collected Stories
(December 2001)
Collected Stories
(December 2000)
Falling Through Space: The Journals of Ellen Gilchrist
(November 2000)
The Cabal and Other Stories
(April 2000)
Sarah Conley: A Novel
(September 1998)
Flights of Angels
(September 1998)
The Courts of Love
(September 1997)
Sarah Conley: A Novel
(September 1997)
The Courts of Love
(October 1996)

Home:  >Browse Listings   >Authors   >Gilchrist, Ellen
Ellen Gilchrist
Ellen Gilchrist
Photo by Mary McCormick

Ellen Gilchrist

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 writer’s 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 Gilchrist’s 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 Radio’s Morning Edition from 1984-1985. Her commentaries from NPR have been published in her book Falling Through Space (1987, 2000).

Gilchrist’s first book was a book of poetry, The Land Surveyor’s 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 public’s 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, it’s 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 debut.’”

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.

(Article first posted December 2001)

Related Links & Info

You can read more about Ellen Gilchrist at this page, part of the Mississippi Writers and Musicians web site at Starkville High School, Starkville, Mississippi.


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, Brown, 1984.
  • Drunk with Love. Boston: Little, Brown, 1986.
  • Two Stories: “Some Blue Hills at Sundown” and “The Man Who Kicked Cancer’s 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, 1995.
  • Rhoda: A Life in Stories. Boston: Little, Brown, 1995.
  • The Courts of Love: A Novella and Stories. Boston: Little, Brown, 1996.
  • Flights of Angels: Stories. Boston: Little, Brown, 1998.
  • The Cabal and Other Stories. Boston: Little, Brown, 2000.
  • Collected Stories. Boston: Little, Brown, 2000.
  • I, Rhoda Manning, Go Hunting with My Daddy, And Other Stories. Boston: Little, Brown, 2002.

Fiction (Novels):

  • 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, Brown, 1994.
  • Anabasis: A Journey to the Interior. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1994.
  • Sarah Conley. Boston: Little, Brown, 1997.


  • The Land Surveyor’s 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. 169-84.
  • Bauer, Margaret. “Ellen Gilchrist’s 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 Gilchrist’s The Annunciation.” Southern Literary Journal 25.1 (Fall 1992): 40-51.
  • ---. “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 Gilchrist’s Characters and the Southern Woman’s Experience: Rhoda Manning’s Double Bind and Anna Hand’s Creativity.” New Orleans Review 15.1 (Spring 1988): 7-9.
  • “Ellen Gilchrist’s and Clifton Taulbert’s Portrayals of Glen Allan.” Notes on Mississippi Writers 24.2 (July 1992): 59-65.
  • Johnson, Tonya Stremlau. “Ellen Gilchrist’s Rhoda: Managing the Fiction.” The Southern Quarterly 35.4 (Summer 1997): 87-96.
  • 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 Gilchrist’s Southern Belles.” The Southern Quarterly 31.3 (Spring 1993): 69-78.
  • McDonnell, Jane Taylor. “Controlling the Past and the Future: Two-Headed Anna in Ellen Gilchrist’s 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): 156-64.
  • 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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