Shirley Ann Grau Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Other than her collections of short stories, Shirley Ann Grau has written several novels, including The Hard Blue Sky (1958), The Keepers of the House (1964), and Roadwalkers (1994). Feature articles have appeared in Mademoiselle, Holiday, and The Reporter.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Shirley Ann Grau received the 1965 Pulitzer Prize in fiction for The Keepers of the House. It was also a selection by both the Literary Guild and the Book-of-the-Month Club and was a condensed selection by Ladies Home Journal (January/February, 1964). The Condor Passes (1971) was also chosen for the Book-of-the-Month Club. Grau received honorary doctorates from Rider College and Spring Hill College.

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Although Shirley Ann Grau (grow) has written introductions and occasional essays for magazines, two forms—the novel and the short story—have dominated her literary career. The enthusiastic reception that greeted her first collection of short stories, The Black Prince, and Other Stories (1955), has assured her reputation in the genre. Scarcely any anthology of American short fiction excludes her work. In spite of her initial success critically, her second collection of stories, The Wind Shifting West (1973), was not so warmly received. Nine Women, which appeared in 1985, restored Grau’s critical acclaim as a short-story writer. Grau also contributed a chapter to Haunter of the Ruins (1997), a book on America’s foremost surrealist photographer, fellow Louisianian Clarence John Laughlin.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

The most obvious testimony to Grau’s success is the Pulitzer Prize for fiction that she received in 1965 for The Keepers of the House. Significantly enough, the same novel appeared in condensed form in Ladies’ Home Journal. Thus, one sees evidence of one of the distinguishing characteristics of much of Grau’s fiction: the ability to appeal simultaneously to two often opposed audiences, the person looking for the “good read” and the literary sophisticate. Not many contemporary writers have published stories in both McCall’s and The New Yorker. In Evidence of Love, Grau seems to have made an attempt to shed any vestige of her image as a “housewife writer” or yet another southern regionalist. While Evidence of Love is rather straightforward, even in its effective use of three overlapping narratives, it nevertheless makes few concessions to a reader looking for the conventional melodramatic staples of sex or violence. Evidence of Love also silences the critics who, after the disappointment of The Condor Passes, sought to dismiss Grau as a one-novel writer. The one recurring criticism of Grau’s later work—that her characters seem bloodless—seems less relevant after the success of other novelists with similar ironic visions—Joan Didion, for example.

As is true of all but a handful of contemporary writers, Grau’s achievement cannot yet be fully measured. Evidence of Love suggests that she has shifted her emphasis away from the engaging plot to the creation of a cool, ironic vision of psychological intensity. While Roadwalkers contains all the ironic vision of Grau’s earlier novels and emphasizes the psychological, it represents another technical feat for Grau in a reemphasis on and experimentation with plot. Here Grau interweaves the impressionistic tale of Mary Woods with the separate histories of Charles Tucker and Rita Landry but ends the novel with the rather straightforwardnarrative of Nanda Woods. In the process, she has kept those elements of style—the brilliant sensory images, the directness of language, the complex heroines—that have given vitality to all her work.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Grau, Shirley Ann. Interview by William Griffin. Publishers Weekly 229 (January 10, 1986): 70-71. A brief biographical sketch and conversation, in which Grau talks about her life and her work, including her short-story collection Nine Women.

Kissel, Susan S. Moving On: The Heroines of Shirley Ann Grau, Anne Tyler, and Gail Godwin. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1996. Examines the fictional characters of three contemporary female writers. Includes bibliographical references and an index.

Oleksy, Elzbieta. “The Keepers of the House: Scarlett O’Hara and Abigail Howland.” In Louisiana Women Writers: New Essays and a Comprehensive Bibliography, edited by Dorothy H. Brown and Barbara C. Ewell. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992. Centering on their heroines, Oleksy nonetheless makes a rather complete comparison of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind (1936) and The Keepers of the House.

O’Neal, Susan Hines. “Cultural Catholicism in Shirley Ann Grau’s The Hard Blue Sky.” Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 10 (1995): 24-36. O’Neal sees the islanders’ attitude in the novel not as an example of their indifference to the mutability of life but rather as a ritual acceptance stemming from their Catholicism and...

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