And the Dark Sacred Night (Glass)

Author Bio
Birth—March 23, 1956
Where—Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Education—B.A., Yale College
Awards—Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction, 1999; Nelson Algren
  Fiction Awards, 1993, 1996, 2000; National Book Award for 
  Fiction, 2002
Currently—lives in New York, New York

After graduating from Yale with a degree in art, Julia Glass received a fellowship to study figurative painting in Paris. Upon her return, she moved to New York, where she became involved in the city's vibrant art scene, worked as a copy editor, and wrote the occasional magazine column. She had always been a good writer, but her energies were initially focused on an art career. Finally, the pull to write became too strong. Glass put down her paint brush and picked up her pen.

One of her earliest short stories, never published, was a semi-autobiographical piece called "Souvenirs." Loosely based on her experiences as a student traveling in Greece, the story was (by Glass's own admission) pretty formulaic. Yet, she found herself returning to it over the years, haunted by the faint memory of someone she had met on that trip: an older man whose wife had recently died.

Then, during the early 1990s, Glass experienced some serious setbacks in her life: Within the space of a few years, her marriage ended in divorce, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and her beloved younger sister—a dynamic woman with a seemingly wonderful life—committed suicide. Devastated by her sister's death, Glass turned to writing as a way of working through her grief and loss. Suddenly, the memory of the sad widower in Greece took on a melancholy resonance. She retrieved "Souvenirs" from her desk drawer for one final rewrite, expanded it to novella length, and spun it from a different point of view. Renamed "Collies," the story won the Pirate's Alley Faulkner Society Medal in 1999. It also became the first section of Glass's remarkable 2002 debut novel, the National Book Award winner Three Junes.

After a spate of "postmodern" bestsellers, Three Junes was like a breath of fresh air, harkening back to an era of more straightforward, gimmick-free writing. Spanning a period of ten years (1989-1999), the novel covers three disparate, event-filled months in the lives of a well-to-do Scottish family named McLeod, weaving a cast of colorful, interconnected characters into a tapestry of contemporary social mores that would do Glass's 19th-century role model George Eliot proud.

The same dazzling sprawl that distinguished her acclaimed debut has characterized Glass's subsequent efforts—rich, dense narratives that unfold from multiple points of view and illuminate the full, complicated spectrum of relationships (among parents and children, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, friends and lovers). In an interview with NPR, she explained her penchant for ensemble casts and panoramic multidimensional stories: "I see life as increasingly complex, vivid, colorful, crazy, chaotic. That's the world I write about...the world I live in."

From a 2002 Barnes & Noble interview:
• Glass's first published writing was a regular column on pets called "Animal Love" that ran in Glamour magazine for two years in the late eighties. Says Glass, "I grew up in a home where animals were ever-present and often dominated our lives. There were always horses, dogs, and cats, as well as a revolving infirmary of injured wildlife being nursed by my sister the aspiring vet. Without any conscious intention on my part, animals come to play a significant role in my fiction: in Three Junes, a parrot and a pack of collies; in The Whole World Over, a bulldog named The Bruce. To dog lovers, by the way, I recommend My Dog Tulip by J. R. Ackerley—by far the best 'animal book' I've ever read."

• She is an avid rug-hooker in her free time. She explains that "unlike the more restrictive needlepoint, this medium permits me to work with yarn in a fluid, painterly fashion." Several of her rugs were reproduced in a book called Punch Needle Rug Hooking, by Amy Oxford (Schiffer Books).

• Glass considers herself a "confirmed, unrepentant late bloomer." She explains, "I talked late, swam late, did not learn to ride a bike until college —and might never have walked or learned to drive a car if my parents hadn't overruled my lack of motivation and virtually forced me to embrace both forms of transportation. I suspect I was happy to sit in a corner with a book. Though I didn't quite plan it that way, I had my two sons at just about the same ages my mother saw me and my sister off to college, and my first novel was published when I was 46. This 'tardiness' isn't something I'm proud of, but I'm happy to be an inspiration to others who arrive at these milestones later than most of us do."

When asked what book most influenced her life as a writer, here is how she responded:

I cannot imagine how many books I've read in my life so far — and to name a "favorite" would be impossible, but the most influential, hands down, was Daniel Deronda, by George Eliot, because, though it's certainly flawed, it's the book that put me to work writing fiction as an adult. As a child, and through college, I had always loved reading and writing, but the notion of "being a writer" wasn't one I thought much about pursuing; perhaps writing came so naturally to me from an early age that I took it for granted, saw it as a means rather than a possible "end," a life's labor unto itself. My professional sights were set on the visual arts; In college I majored in art, then won a fellowship to spend a year painting abroad after graduation, and then, like so many artists, found myself in New York City holding down a day job as a copy editor and painting at night. I was showing my work here and there, but I was also reading a great deal.

Having adored Middlemarch in college, I picked up Daniel Deronda—and fell so deeply in love with the experience of reading it that, now in my late twenties, I began to yearn to write fiction for the first time since high school. George Eliot's astonishingly beautiful use of language, her nearly contemptible yet ultimately captivating heroine—Gwendolen Harleth, who remains one of my favorite all-time characters—and the daring structure of the novel itself, the way it leaves major characters offstage for significant stretches, all made me think at length about what an extraordinary thing a book really is—and suddenly I wanted, fiercely, to be making up stories of my own. (Author bio and interview from Barnes & Noble.)

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