Judith Rossner Biography

Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Although she did not gain a national reputation until the publication of her fourth novel, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Judith Rossner began to pursue a writing career before she had even perfected her penmanship. Encouraged by her mother, Dorothy Shapiro Perelman, a teacher and would-be author, Judith as a young child dictated her short stories to her parents, who copied them onto paper.

Judith Perelman attended public schools in her native New York City and took classes at City College (now City University of New York). In 1954, at the age of nineteen, she dropped out of college to marry Robert Rossner, a teacher and writer. She was convinced of her destiny in the world of letters and claimed that her writing must take precedence over her education.

In 1966, after the birth of their two children, Jean and Daniel, Rossner published her first novel, To the Precipice. Although the book did not sell particularly well, it served to establish a prevailing theme, the conflict between selfishness and altruism, that would figure prominently in Rossner’s canon throughout the coming decades. The work addresses the dilemma of a Jewish female protagonist forced to choose between the man she loves and the wealthy man who loves her. Although a few critics praised the book, the majority viewed it as formulaic melodrama containing unsympathetic characters. Her second novel, Nine Months in the Life of an Old Maid, a gothic tale drawn around an insane woman living in an isolated mansion with her sister, received much the same reaction. Rossner invested three years in the manuscript and netted only about three thousand dollars from book sales.

In the late 1960’s Robert Rossner moved his family from New York City to New Hampshire to initiate a free school. Judith Rossner did not acclimate well to rural living and longed to return to the city. The move precipitated the end of the marriage, but it eventually lent inspiration for Rossner’s third work, Any Minute I Can Split, a tribute to the 1960’s generation viewed through life in a commune. J. D. O’Hara, writing in Saturday Review, commented that the book depicted the tentativeness of relationships while displaying “the triumph of situational existence.”

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Judith Rossner Bibliography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Hite, Molly. The Other Side of the Story: Structures and Strategies of Contemporary Feminine Literature. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1989. A discussion of the attempt on the part of women writers to create a different literary style that expresses the feminine view of situations. Argues that while Rossner’s style is not markedly innovative, the tone of frenzy in Attachments captures a woman’s desperate striving to piece together the chaotic and fragmented world in which she lives.

McAlexander, Patricia Jewell. “Judith Rossner.” In American Novelists Since World War II, Second Series, edited by James E. Kibler. Vol. 6 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1980. Provides biographical and critical information.

McFadden, Cyra. Review of His Little Women, by Judith Rossner. The New York Times Book Review, April 22, 1990. Discusses with Rossner the background to writing the book.

Wolff, Cynthia. “The Radcliffean Gothic Model.” In The Female Gothic, edited by Juliann Fleenor. Montreal: Eden Press, 1983. Discusses how the depiction of female sexuality by Ann Radcliffe influenced authors, including Rossner.