Laurie Colwin Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Laurie Colwin was that rare modern author who could write cheerful tales of love and family life without becoming mired in sentimentality. Elegant, witty, and polished, her fiction has been compared to the novels of Jane Austen and Colette, though Colwin herself preferred comparisons with Evelyn Waugh. She is best known for her novels and short stories but was also a translator (for the author Isaac Bashevis Singer) and a food writer.

Colwin was born in New York City, where much of her fiction is set. She was raised in Chicago and suburban Philadelphia but returned to Manhattan as an adult. Although she attended classes at Bard College and Columbia University, she never graduated from college. Instead, she worked for literary agents and publishers, including Dutton, Viking, Pantheon, and Putnam. Colwin was not particularly successful or happy in the publishing world—she quit two jobs, was fired from another, and was laid off from a fourth—so she decided to try writing fiction herself. As a writer, she had much better luck. Her first story was published by the prestigious magazine The New Yorker when she was only twenty-five.

She continued publishing stories in The New Yorker as well as in women’s magazines such as Cosmopolitan, McCall’s, Mademoiselle, and Redbook. Her first book, which appeared in 1974, was a collection of short stories titled Passion and Affect. In these early stories, Colwin’s fascination with romantic love is already evident, but the characters are shallowly observed and lack the depth that characterizes her late writing. She published two novels, Shine on, Bright and Dangerous Object and Happy All the Time, during the 1970’s, but it was not until Family Happiness, her third novel, that she reached full strength as a writer. Although the heroine of Family Happiness, Polly Solo-Miller Demarest, leads an improbably perfect life, she suffers and experiences psychological...

(The entire section is 827 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Colwin, Laurie. Interview by Madalynne Reuter. Publishers Weekly, September 10, 1982. A revealing conversation.

Levine, Judith. “Bliss and the Bourgeoisie.” Vogue, March, 1986. Provides a brief but useful discussion.

Meanor, Patrick. “Laurie Colwin.” In American Short-Story Writers Since World War II, Second Series, edited by Meanor and Gwen Crane. Vol. 218 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale Group, 1999. A comprehensive profile of Colwin.

Richlin, Amy. “Guilty Pleasures: The Fiction of Laurie Colwin.” New England Review 13, nos. 3/4 (Spring/Summer, 1991): 296-309. An excellent examination of Colwin’s standard themes and motifs.

Wells, Gully. “Family Matters.” Vogue, September, 1993. A discussion of Colwin’s final novel, A Big Storm Knocked It Over, in the context of her other fiction.