Bloomers At Large / Features

BLOOMERS AT LARGE: The Promise to Bloom

by Vicraj Gill

There’s no way to tell if Elena Ferrante is a Bloomer. After all, no one knows who Ferrante is. And the writer guards her privacy so intensely that this may never change. But the descriptions in the New York Times’s recent spotlight of Ferrante’s work are of an oeuvre that centers on women’s experiences as they age. Ferrante explores those experiences in piercing, provocative ways that Bloom readers will likely find resonant.

A recent piece by Jeffrey Zuckerman on the work of Christos Tsiolkas will also intrigue Bloom readers. Tsiolkas published his first novel, Loaded, at 30, but only after a long struggle with publishers who found its frank engagement with racism and homophobia in ’90s Australia hard to take. In his 40s, Tsiolkas came out with his most well-known—and divisive—book, The Slap, and became a writer full-time on the strength of its success. And Tsiolkas’s latest book Barracuda, Zuckerman writes, gives us a “grown up” version of his trademark “fundamentally adolescent” narrator, whose maturation and redemption reflect Tsiolkas’s full maturity as an artist.

Earlier this month, Désirée Zamorano took a “virtual book tour” in support of her novel The Amado Women. Wrapping up the tour at the lit mag HTMLGiant, she paused to reflect on the experience of publishing the novel. Zamorano’s essay is candid about many things one might not expect a writer to share freely—the way self-help books helped her along her literary path; and the way she even “pray[ed] for God to excise this writing aspiration from [her] heart” when it seemed she’d never be traditionally published.

At one point Zamorano mentions author Patricia Sprinkle’s observation that a writer’s life has “seasons,” an observation which served as solace for Zamorano as she juggled writing alongside teaching at an elementary school and raising two young children. Sprinkle’s insight is also echoed in various ways in the stories of the writers featured in the recent anthology A Story Larger than My Own: Women Writers Look Back on Their Lives and Careers. Rosemary Booth’s excellent review of the book is well worth the read.

Also worth your time: Michelle Huneven’s “The Trouble with Writing,” adapted from a speech the author gave at a Writing Workshops LA conference earlier this year. The author talks about her 22 years of “trying and failing and trying again, and failing again,” as well as “the many forms of trouble inherent in the vocation” of writing.

Alison Bechdel—whose graphic memoir Fun Home made it on Juhi Karan’s list of famous banned books in a recent “Five in Bloom”—has just been made a 2014 MacArthur Foundation Fellow. As Pamela Polston of the Vermont newspaper Seven Days notes, Bechdel received the news right after hearing that the musical adaptation of Fun Home will be produced on Broadway.

With her MacArthur win, Bechdel joins a diverse list of honorees in various disciplines. One of her fellow prizewinners is Pamela O. Long, a 71-year-old independent historian who published her first book, Technology and Society in the Medieval Centuries: Byzantium, Islam and the West, 500–1300, at 42 and her most recent one, Artisan/Practitioners and the Rise of the New Sciences, 1400–1600, just three years ago. (Read about the other prizewinners in Katherine Brooks’s roundup at The Huffington Post.)

Every month, Poetry Foundation blog Harriet gives contributors a chance to talk about what they’ve been reading. In September’s list, Sylvia Legris gives a shout-out to Bernard de Vries—a lichen expert who published Getting to Know Saskatchewan Lichens at the age of 90. “I love a late-bloomer story,” she writes.

Other interesting names on the list include sci-fi and fantasy writer Kij Johnson, who has published short stories steadily since the age of 28 but didn’t come out with a novel until 39. Johnson’s latest story collection includes a novella that editor Amy Beeder calls “one of the best things I’ve read all year.”

There’s also Benjamin Black, author of the noir novel The Black-Eyed Blonde. John Koethe calls Black’s Phillip Marlowe “probably the most convincing recreation” of the original. (Bloom readers will know that Black is in fact the pseudonym of John Banville, who took up the name in his 60s to distinguish his noir from his usual fiction.) Koethe also notes his appreciation of featured Bloom author Spencer Reece’s latest collection of poems, The Road to Emmausrecently long listed for the 2014 National Book Award for poetry.

Speaking of folks featured at Bloom: Meg Pokrass, profiled on this site last year, will have a piece out in the 2015 anthology Flash Fiction International, which W. W. Norton has just made available for preorder. (Check out our Q&A with the author for Pokrass’s thoughts on flash fiction as a form.)

Sergei Dovlatov—the Russian writer our own Sonya Chung has written about several times, on this site and elsewhere—recently had the street he lived on in Queens, New York renamed in his honor, as “Sergei Dovlatov Way.” The Daily Beast’s Daniel Genis takes us through the way Dovlatov’s legacy has evolved since he was pressured to flee the Soviet Union in 1979 for publishing works that used humor and irony to underline the oppressive realities of communist life.

Regular “Bloomers At Large” readers may remember Daniel Genis from last month’s links roundup. Just out after a decade in prison on a robbery charge, Genis stated his intention to become a writer—a journalist, to be specific. With this article, it looks like Genis is making good on his promise to bloom.

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Homepage photo credit: Shaktiman Sethi via photopin cc

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