Gilchrist, Ellen (Short Story Criticism)
Ellen Gilchrist 1935–-
(Full name Ellen Louise Gilchrist) American short story writer, poet, and novelist.
The following entry presents criticism of Gilchrist's short fiction works from 1992 to 2002. For criticism of her short fiction published prior to 1992, see SSC, Volume 14.
Gilchrist is best known for short stories that chronicle the struggles of Southern women against the restrictive mores of upper-class society. She sets much of her fiction in New Orleans, describing the city's beauty and eccentricities in detail to contrast the idealistic hopes of her upper-class female protagonists with the harsh reality of their lives. These short stories have garnered favorable critical attention and have proved popular with readers over the years.
Gilchrist was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Her early childhood was spent on the Hopedale Plantation, the home of her maternal grandfather. She eloped at nineteen years of age and had married four times before she earned her B.A. in philosophy from Millsaps College at the age of thirty-two. Gilchrist's experiences among Southern socialites during her twenties and a series of unsuccessful relationships often provide the basis for her fiction. Gilchrist did not begin writing until she was forty years old. After she began sending poems to poet and novelist Jim Whitehead, Gilchrist was asked to join his writing class at the University of Arkansas, which she accepted. In 1981 she published her first book of short fiction, In the Land of Dreamy Dreams. She has continued to write short fiction and novels, receiving several awards and critical praise for her work.
Major Works of Short Fiction
Gilchrist's short fiction is praised for its realistic and sympathetic portrayal of unconventional Southern girls and women who engage in promiscuous or unorthodox behavior due to depression, a craving for romance, and the need to escape the rigid conventions of the class-conscious milieu. Although some reviewers consider Gilchrist's casual treatment of her protagonists' often immoral actions shallow or banal, others regard her heroines as simply pragmatic and jaded from their personal battles. These protagonists often reappear in different stories, allowing Gilchrist to examine various stages of their personal development. The women—Rhoda Manning, Nora Jane Whittington, and Crystal Manning—are often compared by critics to rebellious literary heroines such as Frankie Addams of Carson McCuller's The Member of the Wedding. Some commentators have perceived greater depth and maturation in the characters of her later works. For example, in several of the stories collected in The Age of Miracles (1995), Rhoda Manning is portrayed in midlife: divorced, but with her drinking problem under control and her failed relationships behind her. The Courts of Love (1996) follows the adventures of another Gilchrist heroine, Nora Jane Whittington. In 2000 Gilchrist published her Collected Stories, a group of thirty-four stories that she handpicked from her short fiction collections.
While Gilchrist has been faulted by critics for weak endings and a lack of coherence in her short fiction collections, most have commented on the vitality of her writing style and her protagonists. She has been praised for her vivid use of colloquial language and dialogue, and critics have particularly noted her ability to capture in her stories the dreams and frustrations of adolescence. Detractors claim that her stories are too similar in subject matter and sometimes overwhelm the reader with digressions, minor details, and trivial dialogue. She is often discussed as a Southern writer, and her fiction has been compared to that of Katharine Anne Porter, William Faulkner, and Ernest Hemingway. Considered an energetic and appealing storyteller, Gilchrist's short fiction remains popular with reviewers and readers alike.
In the Land of Dreamy Dreams 1981
Victory Over Japan 1985
Drunk with Love 1986
Light Can Be Both Wave and Particle 1989
I Cannot Get You Close Enough 1990
The Blue-Eyed Buddhist and Other Stories 1990
Rhoda: A Life in Stories 1995
The Age of Miracles 1995
The Courts of Love 1996
Flights of Angels 1998
The Cabal and Other Stories 2000
Collected Stories 2000
I, Rhoda Manning, Go Hunting with My Daddy and Other Stories 2002
The Land Surveyor's Daughter (poetry) 1979
The Annunciation (novel) 1983
Falling through Space: The Journals of Ellen Gilchrist (journals) 1987
The Anna Papers (novel) 1988
Net of Jewels (novel) 1992
Anabasis: A Journey to the Interior (novel) 1994
Starcarbon: A Meditation on Love (novel) 1994
Sarah Conley (novel) 1997
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SOURCE: Pagan, Nicholas O. “Ellen Gilchrist's and Clifton Taulbert's Portrayals of Glen Allan.” Notes on Mississippi Writers 24, no. 2 (July 1992): 59-65.
[In the following essay, Pagan contrasts Gilchrist's portrayal of Glen Allan, Mississippi, with that of Clifton Taulbert, contending that “Gilchrist's Glen Allan differs so greatly from Taulbert's that one barely recognizes them as the same town.”]
Ellen Gilchrist and Clifton Taulbert both grew up on the Mississippi Delta, a little more than a decade apart. The town of Glen Allan figures significantly in many of Gilchrist's stories and, as Taulbert's hometown, it is the setting for his book, Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored. Glen Allan is located near the Issaquena-Washington County border on the Delta. The majority of the residents are black (over 80٪ in 1930 to about 60٪ in 1960). The Mississippi Blue Book reports that in the 40's and 50's, the period during which Gilchrist and Taulbert were growing up and about which they write, Glen Allan saw its population fluctuate. It had a post office and a telephone company in the early 40's and was rechartered around 1950. Yet it is not even mentioned in the 1960 Blue Book. Most of the money at that time was made in cotton, but there were also timber and oil profits to be made. This, then, is the real Glen Allan area: shifting population, mostly black, with whites owning...
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SOURCE: Seaman, Donna. Review of The Age of Miracles, by Ellen Gilchrist. Booklist 91, no. 15 (1 April 1995): 1377.
[In the following favorable assessment of The Age of Miracles, Seaman finds Gilchrist to be a “marvelously energetic storyteller.”]
Gilchrist's reputation was built in great part on her short story collections, including In the Land of the Dreamy Dreams (1985). Now, after a string of novels ending with Starcarbon (1994), she has returned to stories [in The Age of Miracles], a form she handles with aplomb. A marvelously energetic storyteller, Gilchrist infuses her perfectly sculpted tales with the power of personality and the dichotomy of emotions, and her women are a riot: willful, unapologetic, and outspoken. Each new story is acute and captivating, but those starring her recurrent heroine, Rhoda Katherine Manning, are priceless. Elegant, independent, and successful, Rhoda is approaching 60 with unwavering nerve, delighted with the freedom age brings. When Gilchrist isn't occupied with Rhoda, she's telling tales about male New Orleans poets and the rich women who pursue them, the aftermath of a suicide, or how a woman reacts when her grown children kidnap her to save her from the horrors of a facelift. As Gilchrist chronicles her characters' struggle to get what they need out of life in spite of setbacks and tragedies, she warms us with her flinty...
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SOURCE: Review of The Age of Miracles, by Ellen Gilchrist. Los Angeles Times Book Review (30 July 1995): 6.
[In the following positive review, Reynolds praises the humorous and entertaining characters portrayed in the stories of The Age of Miracles.]
Many of the characters in these stories [The Age of Miracles] speak so quickly and candidly, seem so robust and healthy that they look back over their shoulders at the panting, slightly down-at-the-heels, mired-in-doubt reader now and again and call out “Get the picture?” Rhoda Manning, magazine writer, appears in several of the stories. She lives on Xanax and Evian and Donna Karan. Marriage, sex, divorce, solitude and company are all strangely equal in her life. “You figure it out,” she says in “A Statue of Aphrodite.” “Women and their desire to pleasure wealthy, self-made men. Think about it sometime if you get stuck in traffic in the rain.” “I was not in love with anyone,” she muses in another story, called “Paris,” “and I did not want to be. ‘BOND NO MORE’ it said on notes I had scattered around my house. … I was free to let the whole world be my lover.” Equanimity and humor, that's what the characters in these stories have in common. The circumstances they find themselves in are stranger than truth and perfect for fiction, perhaps the most memorable is “Madison at 69th, a Fable,” the tale of...
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SOURCE: MacDonald, D. R. “More Dreamy Dreams.” Book World—The Washington Post 25 (3 September 1995): 6.
[In the following review, MacDonald notes the inconsistent quality of the Rhoda stories in The Age of Miracles.]
“You might have heard of me,” Rhoda Manning says in “A Wedding in Jackson,” one of the stories in this collection [The Age of Miracles]. “I'm a famous scandal in some circles in the South.” A familiar figure in Ellen Gilchrist's fiction, from In the Land of Dreamy Dreams to Victory Over Japan, from precocious brat to noted writer, Rhoda at her best has a brassy wit, a kind of overbearing Southern charm. Now 50ish, “mellowed,” less concerned with having sex though still sexually frank, her drinking problem, failed marriages and passionate affairs behind her, she still loves to talk about herself. But by the end of the collection, even her fans may have heard enough. Fortunately, not every story puts her ego on parade.
Rhoda rarely sounds like the seasoned writer she claims to be, and from whom we should expect the pleasures and surprises of good storytelling. Self-absorbed, rambling, digressive, she explores nothing (especially her own character) with any depth or freshness. Patches of vivid writing and wit are overwhelmed by incidental details, trivial dialogue, self-indulgent fights—like long phone conversations or letters home...
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SOURCE: Tandon, Bharat. “Dressed for Success in the South.” Times Literary Supplement (20 October 1995): 23.
[In the following review, Tandon argues that although The Age of Miracles is not Gilchrist's best collection of short stories, it includes “moments of more profound and graceful achievement than she has shown before.”]
Ellen Gilchrist, as readers of her stories will have noticed, has a gift for moving meticulously around the textures and ramifications of an event; and while her novels are always entertaining, this is a gift which lends itself more naturally to the short story, a form where epiphany is distilled and compressed. The Age of Miracles is a welcome return to Gilchrist's Southern landscapes and charmingly fallible characters.
Fables depend on a sense of ritual and expectation, and although only “Madison at 69th” openly calls itself “A Fable”, Gilchrist's talent for noticing the shapes of habit in everyday life runs deep. In “Statue of Aphrodite”, the disappointment of Rhoda Manning, the author's recurring heroine, is articulated through her clothes. She sets off to meet an unknown admirer with “a sophisticated black three-piece evening suite … and an even more sophisticated beige Donna Karan to wear on the plane”, and a bathetic weight sounds in the description of the Laura Ashley dress he sends her:
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SOURCE: Williams, Hart. Review of The Courts of Love, by Ellen Gilchrist. Book World—The Washington Post 27 (16 February 1997): 4.
[In the following positive assessment of The Courts of Love, Williams deems Gilchrist “a national cultural treasure.”]
The Courts of Love lies somewhere between a novel and a story collection. Two-thirds of the narrative consists of a cycle of interlinked tales focusing on recurring characters: Nora Jane and Freddy Harwood, their fraternal-twin daughters, Freddy's best friend, Nieman, and their families. This is the sort of writing that almost invariably seems to end up much as a canvas painted completely black does in our art museums: seldom understood and endlessly praised just in case the critic didn't “get” it.
Gilchrist suffers not a whit of this: The language and style are nearly transparent; the characters live and breathe. One cannot seem to shake the feeling that they are alive, that their lives flow parallel to ours. They have histories, and foibles and follies.
These interlaced short stories contain some of the most indelibly etched characters in contemporary fiction, tied but not bound by our zeitgeist: A couple, childless after the Oklahoma City bombing, adopt two orphan girls when they had only meant to adopt one. Freddy's Berkeley bookstore is bombed as a warning to Salman Rushdie. Nieman...
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SOURCE: Review of The Courts of Love, by Ellen Gilchrist. Virginia Quarterly Review 73, no. 4 (fall 1997): 130.
[In the following review, the anonymous critic provides a favorable assessment of The Courts of Love.]
The one novella and nine stories that make up this collection [The Courts of Love] simply show a master at work. In this her 14th book, Gilchrist will be courting new fans and satisfying old ones. The novella, Nora Jane and Company continues to chart the travails of Nora Jane, who first posed as a nun in a robbery and later managed to birth twin girls from different fathers. One shows up unexpectedly in a bizarre twist that opens up the plot of the work. Then Gilchrist takes up a terrorist-style murder carried out by a Muslim sect. That she then drops it like a hot potato is less troubling than it would be for a writer less skilled. The author has moved on, clearly, to the next story. And her aim is always true. The social commentary she offers is subtle but nonetheless skewers current educational practices with pokes like this: “I don't like her taking Ritalin. I don't think they ought to be giving her drugs … “I'm about sick of this multicultural stuff … All we do is waste time.” The remaining short stories mostly tackle the adventures of adulterous rich white women in the South. And if it's more of the same so be it.
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SOURCE: Hooper, Brad. Review of Flights of Angels, by Ellen Gilchrist. Booklist 94, no. 22 (August 1998): 1922.
[In the following review, Hooper applauds the humorous and poignant stories comprising Flights of Angels.]
Gilchrist is so amiable that it's no wonder that she is one of the most popular American short story writers today. She just has to be a friendly person, given that her fiction is so delectably yarny. It's back-porch material; when reading her stories, one can practically hear them being told to an appreciative audience as the sun drifts down to the horizon. Her latest collection [Flights of Angels], will not disappoint her numerous fans. Her dual senses of comedy and poignancy continue in close partnership; the typical laugh-and-cry reaction to a Gilchrist story is both anticipated and realized in every piece gathered here. Readers meet some of her wonderfully all-too-human characters in “A Tree to Be Desired,” a story about a grown woman who since her elderly grandfather has died, feels free to continue her affair with the black male nurse who had tended to him on his deathbed. In “The Carnival of the Stone Children,” the narrator and her good friend take a two-day retreat in an attempt to lose weight, her friend is “suffering the first documented case of herpes simplex in New Orleans.” While the grown-ups deal with the lasting effects of the sexual revolution,...
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SOURCE: Rubin, Merle. “Taking Wing.” Los Angeles Times Book Review (8 November 1998): 10.
[In the following review, Rubin asserts that “while some of the stories may seem a little too pat and some of the narrators a little too pleased with themselves, Flights of Angels is on the whole a satisfying collection.”]
Novelist, poet and short-story writer Ellen Gilchrist made an impressive literary debut in 1981 with her book of short stories, In the Land of Dreamy Dreams. Her 1984 collection, Victory Over Japan, won that year's National Book Award for fiction. Since then, more than a dozen books—story collections, novels, autobiographical nonfiction—have appeared: a mixed bag, in which can be found much that is poignant, funny, charming, wry, moving, even wise, but also much that is coy, preachy, self-satisfied, well-nigh insufferable.
By and large, it seems fair to say that Gilchrist's short fiction has been stronger than her novels. And, indeed, her new collection, Flights of Angels, contains many stories that well display her talents. Most of these 18 stories are set in the author's native South: Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina or the little town of Fayetteville, Ark., although one takes place in Los Angeles.
Some stories are linked by a common narrator. In “Miss Crystal Confronts the Past” and “A Sordid Tale, or,...
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SOURCE: Hooper, Brad. Review of The Cabal and Other Stories, by Ellen Gilchrist. Booklist 96, no. 7 (1 December 1999): 661.
[In the following review, Hooper offers a favorable assessment of The Cabal and Other Stories.]
Gilchrist demonstrates in her latest collection of short fiction [The Cabal and Other Stories] not only that she is a remarkably adept storyteller but also that the novella, particularly in her hands, is a highly effective literary form—one that offers a more involved and involving plot and more complete character development than one finds in short fiction while at the same time more tightly structured than most full-length novels. Half of this book is taken up with a novella titled The Cabal. Brimming with Gilchrist's trademark charming characters, it takes place in Jackson, Mississippi, upon Caroline Jones' arrival in town to begin a college teaching job. It just so happens that Caroline's arrival coincides with the mental breakdown of the psychiatrist who tends to the well-being of the town's artistic elite, a group called “the Cabal,” all of whom are subsequently threatened with the public revelation of their deep, dark secrets. In this novella and the short stories that follow, Gilchrist is southern to the core, but she eschews traditional southern grotesqueness in character depictions and avoids gothic overtones in plot situations. Instead—and this is...
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SOURCE: Bauer, Margaret Donovan. “Gilchrist's Composite Personality and Story Cycle: Transforming Ernest Hemingway.” In The Fiction of Ellen Gilchrist, pp. 23-56. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1999.
[In the following essay, Bauer contends that “the allusions to and parallels with works by Hemingway throughout Gilchrist's work reveal, in addition to Gilchrist's development of story cycles and composite personalities in the tradition of Hemingway, the deconstruction of the Hemingway hero.”]
Re-vision—the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction—is for us more than a chapter in cultural history: it is an act of survival.
—Adrienne Rich, “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision”
It was Ernest Hemingway's new book, and it had come from the book club the day she left North Carolina. She had been waiting for it to come for weeks. Now she opened it to the first page, holding it up to her nose and giving it a smell. … “This is going to be a good one. I can tell.”
—Ellen Gilchrist, In the Land of Dreamy Dreams
In Gilchrist's “1957, a Romance,” as Rhoda Manning begins to read Across the River and into the Trees, she tells her father that Ernest Hemingway...
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SOURCE: Reynolds, Susan Salter. “Discoveries.” Los Angeles Times Book Review (2 April 2000): 15.
[In the following review, Reynolds faults Gilchrist's use of detail in The Cabal and Other Stories.]
It's all in the details, they tell you in creative writing 101. What they might forget to tell you is that writing effectively sometimes means relinquishing control. Like characters and plot, details rebel if they are too tightly manipulated by the writer. For extremely talented and experienced writers like Ellen Gilchrist, the dance with detail—background or foreground, minor or plot-shaking, descriptive or context providing—is perilous. In The Cabal and the stories that follow this short novel, a psychiatrist, who holds all the gruesome secrets of the elite citizens in a small Mississippi town, goes crazy, threatening to pull his patients with him. Caroline Jones, a poet and professor, is invited to teach at the university by a close friend, a professor and confidant of the town's high society and is hurled into the center of this unraveling universe. A wonderful plot, but Gilchrist white-knuckles the details: what they wear, what they read, what they possess. It competes with the deeper psychological portraits these stories could create, offering, in the end, intoxication without insight.
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SOURCE: Seaman, Donna. Review of Collected Stories, by Ellen Gilchrist. Booklist 97, no. 2 (15 September 2000): 188.
[In the following review, Seaman provides a laudatory assessment of Collected Stories.]
Gilchrist's celebrated writing life began with a book of short stories, In the Land of the Dreamy Dreams (1984), and her second collection, Victory Over Japan won the 1985 National Book Award. She has switched back and forth between novels and short stories ever since, and her dulcet yet tensile voice has become an integral part of American literature. Gilchrist has now selected 34 of her favorite stories from seven collections [Collected Stories] to create a potent and pleasingly cohesive volume that showcases her deep sense of place and, the most salient feature of her work, her lusty, unpredictable, and unapologetic heroines. Gilchrist's women have refused to be contained within single stories. No matter how often she finds someone new to write about, and how far away she moves from the settings she knows best, and which she so affectionately yet critically portrays, such as Fayetteville, Arkansas, and New Orleans, her feisty and outspoken heroines track her down and insist on continuing their lives. Here, readers first meet the fearless and competitive Rhoda Katherine Manning as an ambitious third-grader and follow her through an elegant adulthood of extravagant gestures...
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SOURCE: Reynolds, Susan Salter. “Discoveries.” Los Angeles Times Book Review (24 December 2000): 11.
[In the following favorable review of Collected Stories, Reynolds outlines the strengths of Gilchrist's short fiction writing.]
“A full moon was caught like a kite in the pecan trees across the river.” Mysterious, beautiful, ominous, rich, perfect. “The low-hanging clouds pushed against each other in fat cosmic orgasms.” Heavy-handed, jarring, distracting, mixed beyond usefulness. This is why you buy short-story collections by writers you've enjoyed: to see the many variations in their writing to get a sense of their evolution sometimes over decades, to boil their writing down to a haiku of questions they've asked in various ways and answers they've offered. Also to discover new things. Reading this collection of stories handpicked by Ellen Gilchrist [Collected Stories], I was struck by the power of her last lines, the way she builds on readers' expectations and then shatters them, sometimes violently, in the very end. She is also one of the finest writers of a rare species: the happy story. Gilchrist is not afraid of deep happiness, family happiness in spite of problems, love happiness as ordained by fate and the gods, or the happiness of children, even lonely or mistreated children. Some of her characters (like Nora Jane from the previous collection, Light Can Be Both Wave...
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SOURCE: Mesic, Penelope. Review of Collected Stories, by Ellen Gilchrist. Book (January 2001): 69.
[In the following review, Mesic provides a favorable assessment of Collected Stories.]
In one of Gilchrist's sublimely mellow short stories [in Collected Stories], a resourceful housemaid describes meeting the teen-aged son of her employer, a wealthy woman just married for the second time: “‘I'm Traceleen,’ I said. ‘I'm going to be the maid.’ ‘I'm King,’ he said. ‘I'm going to be the stepchild.’” This brief exchange, wryly funny and straightforward, is absolutely typical of Gilchrist's characters, who, whatever their shortcomings, always have a keen sense of who they are. One story even centers on a resourceful young woman named Nora Jean who, desperate to join her no-good boyfriend, robs a bar in New Orleans and escapes dressed as a nun. Wealthy or dirt poor, these characters share an invigorating sense of finding something to savor in their circumstances. Gilchrist makes harmony and generosity inherently suspenseful, because once such blessings appear we become anxious for them to continue. We read, too, for the pleasure of recognition, for the rapid, easy perfection with which Gilchrist establishes a scene. With thirty-four stories weighing in at over 500 pages, no one could call this a slim volume, and yet the recollection of other wonderful stories necessarily omitted...
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SOURCE: Williams, Susan Millar. “Guilty Pleasures.” Women's Review of Books 18, no. 7 (April 2001): 19.
[In the following favorable assessment of Collected Stories, Williams offers a thematic overview of Gilchrist's short fiction.]
I've always been a fan of Ellen Gilchrist. Partly it's just that the places she loves are also the places I love—San Francisco, New Orleans, the Mississippi Delta and above all the weird and wonderful little university town of Fayetteville, Arkansas. “Fateville,” as one of Gilchrist's characters calls it. When I lived in Fayetteville, just a couple of years before Gilchrist came there to study in the famous MFA program presided over by Miller Williams and Jim Whitehead, I was fond of saying that nobody would ever be able to write a story that captured the essence of the place. I was soon proved wrong by Gilchrist's novel The Annunciation and by many of the stories in this very volume, which were selected by Gilchrist herself from In the Land of Dreamy Dreams, Victory Over Japan, Drunk With Love, Light Can Be Both Wave and Particle, The Age of Miracles, The Courts of Love and Flights of Angels.
Gilchrist's first collection of fiction, In the Land of Dreamy Dreams, appeared when she was 46 years old. She won the National Book Award in 1984 for Victory Over Japan. In all, she...
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SOURCE: Bauer, Margaret Donovan. “Ellen Gilchrist's Women Who Would Be Queens (and Those Who Would Dethrone Them).” Mississippi Quarterly 55, no. 1 (winter 2001-2002): 117-31.
[In the following essay, Bauer investigates Gilchrist's portrayal of women in her fiction.]
“There is an old gorgeous man living right here in Jackson, Mississippi, that I have been loving and fighting with and showing off for since I was born. … My father.”1
“It's that old daddy. … That's who we love.”2
My study of Ellen Gilchrist's fiction has illuminated for me the frustrations of women like her prototypical Rhoda Manning: women of my mother's generation who grew up in the 1940s and ‘50s within upper middle-class families and who were allowed, even encouraged, to go to college but were sent there for that MRS. degree more so than for any B.A. or B.S.—in other words, to get enough education to help attract a lawyer or doctor. These women were certainly not expected by their fathers, brothers, their intended husbands, or even their mothers to pursue a career of their own after college. Gilchrist is at her best when she writes about these Southern debutantes of the ‘50s, whose education inspired ambition but whose ambitions were thwarted by their own families.
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SOURCE: Seaman, Donna. Review of I, Rhoda Manning, Go Hunting with My Daddy, by Ellen Gilchrist. Booklist 98, no. 18 (15 May 2002): 1555.
[In the following review, Seaman provides a positive assessment of I, Rhoda Manning, Go Hunting with My Daddy.]
Gilchrist's most captivating recurring character, the classy and indomitable Rhoda Manning, starred in many of the best offerings in Gilchrist's altogether splendid Collected Stories (2000). Now more fascinating than ever at age 65, Rhoda rules this potent new collection [I, Rhoda Manning, Go Hunting with My Daddy], too, as she reflects on her contentious past, especially her complicated relationships with her tough and commanding father and her three headstrong sons. Her macho and assiduous father amassed a fortune selling tractors, abruptly left the “decadent” South for the clean and godly mountains of Wyoming, then schemed to lure his clan to his new world. Rhoda finally recognizes how much she resembles her impossible but righteous father, how much she misses him, and how much they both suffered over their failure to keep her wily sons away from drugs and other risky escapades. With Rhoda as her foil, Gilchrist writes with startling clarity about the narcotized 1970s, the wildness of teenagers, and the helplessness of parents. Another of her intriguing regulars, Nora Jane, headlines in a superbly suspenseful tale that is set in...
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SOURCE: Review of I, Rhoda Manning, Go Hunting with My Daddy, by Ellen Gilchrist. Kirkus Reviews 70, no. 10 (15 May 2002): 684.
[In the following review, the anonymous critic offers a favorable review of I, Rhoda Manning, Go Hunting with My Daddy and Other Stories.]
Rhoda Manning is resurrected once again in a two-part collection [I, Rhoda Manning, Go Hunting with My Daddy].
The first half is comprised of Rhoda stories, sure to please fans of the many already-existing volumes of such (Collected Stories, 2000, etc.). The title story is told from a very young Rhoda's point of view on her first abortive hunting trip, while an older Rhoda announces (in “Entropy”) that “My name is Rhoda Manning and sometimes I think too much”—though this doesn't stop her from expounding on several decades of cross-generational substance abuse. “A Christmas in Wyoming” and “On the Wind River in Wyoming” are largely about Rhoda's father: he moves to Casper, and, when the family visits, he's the perfect excuse to explore family tension. After Daddy dies, Rhoda goes on an expedition (“The Golden Bough”) to pick a branch that will let her talk to him, but it's the Demerol she's given after a fall that summons him. In the second half, there are no Rhoda stories at all, although with Gilchrist everything is arguably Rhoda. In “Gotterdammerung, in Which Nora Jane and...
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Bauer, Margaret Donovan. The Fiction of Ellen Gilchrist. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1999, 211 p.
Full-length study of Gilchrist's fiction.
Cole, Diane. Review of The Age of Miracles, by Ellen Gilchrist. New York Times Book Review (21 May 1995): 32.
Offers a mixed review of The Age of Miracles.
Dieckmann, Katherine. “Recombinant DNA.” New York Times Book Review (17 December 2000): 8.
Contends that “few writers are as adept at spinning funny, slyly insightful tales that radiate outward like tiny satellites, orbiting a fictional universe that mirrors the more unpredictable and tellingly human moments in own.”
Kollias, Jane. “Naked Truth.” Book World—The Washington Post (9 July 2000): 6.
Explores the defining characteristics of Gilchrist's short fiction.
Woodland, Randal. “‘New People in the Old Museum of New Orleans’: Ellen Gilchrist, Sheila Bosworth, and Nancy Lemann.” In Louisiana Women Writers: New Essays and a Comprehensive Bibliography, edited by Dorothy H. Brown and Barbara C. Ewell, pp. 195-210. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992.
Investigates the portrayal of New Orleans in the fiction of Gilchrist, Sheila Bosworth, and Nancy...
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