Marianne Wiggins Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Of Scottish and Greek ancestry, Marianne Wiggins was born to John Wiggins and Mary Klonis. Her father was a grocer and preacher. She married Brian Porzak, a film distributor, on June 6, 1965, but divorced him in 1970. They had a daughter, Lara Porzak. Wiggins’s second marriage, to the Indian-born British writer Salman Rushdie on January 23, 1988, led to a few years of fame and controversy, not because of the marriage itself but for the religious edict issued by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini condemning Rushdie to death. Rushdie and Wiggins’s marriage ended in 1992.

Wiggins worked as a stockbroker in the early 1970’s. Before being known for marrying Rushdie, she had begun writing. Her first book, Babe, concerns a single mother raising a child and the challenges of single motherhood. This novel reflected Wiggins’s personal experience after her divorce, having to work and raise her daughter, Lara. Her debut was not widely reviewed.

After the novel’s publication, she and Lara lived in Martha’s Vineyard, where Wiggins wrote her next two novels, Went South and Separate Checks, and a collection of short stories titled Herself in Love. All of these deal with modern-day single women, mothers in love, and divorce. Again, some of the core issues of these works are reminiscent of Wiggins’s life circumstances. While the second novel did not receive much notice, the third book, Separate Checks, gained her considerable attention and critical acclaim.

Before experiencing the controversy surrounding Rushdie, Wiggins lived through her own cultural turmoil during her childhood in the United States. Growing up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, she had a conservative and religious father who preached in a Protestant church (founded by her grandfather) every Sunday. At age nine, she was baptized into the Greek Orthodox religion of her mother. Her father later committed suicide. Wiggins harbored an aversion to all organized religion throughout her adulthood; these cultural concerns prevail in some of her works, in which organized religion is sometimes depicted as evil.

Wiggins moved...

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Marianne Wiggins Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Marianne Wiggins was born November 8, 1947, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the daughter of John Wiggins (a grocer and a preacher who also tried farming) and Mary Klonis. Probably because she was born in the Amish region of Pennsylvania, Wiggins has always had a fascination with “utopian” communities. She considered her father the classic American “lost father”; an unsuccessful grocer and a farmer who lost his land, he eventually committed suicide. He was a stern and religious man who attended the church founded by his father. Wiggins’s mother, rather paradoxically, was an exotic Greek woman whose family had emigrated to Virginia.

For the first years of Wiggins’s life, she was reared as a fundamentalist Christian. Then, at age nine, she was baptized into the Greek Orthodox Church but now professes no religion. Often ill as a child—she had hepatitis and later had a kidney removed—Wiggins spent much of her time reading. She first married at age seventeen, to Brian Porzak, a film distributor, on June 6, 1965, and they had one child, Lara. Wiggins and Porzak were divorced in 1970, after which Wiggins had a brief career as a stockbroker, trying to support her daughter as a single parent.

On January 23, 1988, Wiggins married Salman Rushdie, a well-known author living in England. Their life together was thrown into disarray, however, with the publication of Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, in 1988. With the ensuing uproar that this novel produced in the Islamic world and the subsequent death sentence issued by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran, Wiggins and Rushdie had to leave their London home and go into hiding, at times separately, and Wiggins had to cancel a tour promoting her novel John Dollar. This enforced exile undermined their relationship, and in 1991, Wiggins came out of hiding and acknowledged that the marriage had failed. That same year, her short-fiction collection Bet They’ll Miss Us When We’re Gone, which contains some of her most autobiographical work, was published.

Marianne Wiggins Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Marianne Wiggins was born on November 8, 1947, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to John Wiggins, a grocer, and Mary (Klonis) Wiggins, the daughter of Greek immigrants. Her father preached at a conservative church established by his father. With her mother, Wiggins also attended Greek Orthodox services, having been baptized in that faith when she was nine years old. Negative religious experiences during her childhood later shaped her literary depictions of religion.

In the spring of 1965, Wiggins graduated as valedictorian of Manheim Township High School class but decided not to attend Vassar College, which had accepted her for enrollment. On June 6, she married Brian Porzak. The couple lived in Europe, residing in several capitals, including Brussels, Paris, and Rome. It was in Rome that Wiggins gave birth to daughter Lara, who later became a professional photographer. Wiggins and Porzak divorced in 1970, the same year her father killed himself.

Wiggins next secured employment in the northeastern United States and started writing what would become her first novel, Babe. The story told of a divorced woman, much like herself, who was raising a young daughter. Tillie Olsen’s book of essays Silences (1978) inspired Wiggins to continue pursuing a writing career. Although most reviewers ignored her early works, she began receiving recognition for her literary talents with her third novel, Separate Checks.

In 1985,...

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Marianne Wiggins Biography

(eNotes Publishing)

Marianne Wiggins, born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1947, is the author of ten works of fiction and has been nominated for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Wiggins’s father was a farmer and a preacher in a church that her grandfather started. She is mostly self-educated, having not attended college. When she was seventeen, she married and gave birth to her only child, a daughter named Lara, who is now a professional photographer. Wiggins might have influenced her daughter in a choice of career because Wiggins lists photography as one of her favorite hobbies; this also happens to be a major theme in her novel The Shadow Catcher.

Wiggins traveled for several years, living in Brussels, Paris, and Rome for short periods of time. Then she moved to England, where she lived for sixteen years. While there, in 1988, Wiggins married again—this time to a fellow writer, the prize-winning author Salman Rushdie. Shortly after they were married, Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses was published and the couple had to go into hiding because of death threats against Rushdie. They lived underground, moving several times and assuming false identities. The couple divorced five years later.

Wiggins wrote her first novel, Babe (1975), when she was twenty-eight years old. The story is about a woman who raises her daughter as a single mom. Wiggins wrote four novels in the 1980s, with her 1989 novel John Dollar winning the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for best novel written by a woman. But it was in 2003 that Wiggins received the most critical attention. Her novel Evidence of Things Unseen was placed on the finalist list for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize, and it was also nominated for the 2003 National Book Award.