Alison, Jane 1961-

views updated

ALISON, Jane 1961-

PERSONAL:

Born 1961; married Alex Wall (an architect and professor of urban design). Education: Princeton University, B.A. (classics), 1983; Columbia University, M.F.A.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Karlsruhe, Germany. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 19 Union Square W., New York, NY 10003.

CAREER:

Novelist. Worked variously as an editor, fundraiser, and teacher.

WRITINGS:

The Love-Artist, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2001.

The Marriage of the Sea, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2003.

SIDELIGHTS:

Jane Alison resides with her husband, Alex Wall, in Karlsruhe, Germany, where she has worked as a teacher, a fundraiser, and an editor. It was her degree in classics from Princeton University, however, that laid the groundwork for her foray into fiction writing. As she explained in her interview with Andrea Gollin in Princeton Alumni Weekly Online, as an undergraduate at the university she "became fixated on Ovid in exile." This fixation led to The Love-Artist, a novel in which Alison attempts to answer some of the questions that surround the life of the Roman poet, the most important being the reasons behind his mysterious exile from Rome and the whereabouts of his missing tragedy, Medea. She creates for Ovid a lover named Xenia, whom she imagines was the prophetic and supernatural inspiration for Medea. Alison also develops a fictional love triangle between Ovid, Xenia, and Emperor Augustus's granddaughter, Julia, which, in the novel, ultimately leads to Ovid's banishment.

Alison received great critical response for her attempt to fill in history's blanks. The Love-Artist was praised by Eleanor J. Bader of Library Journal for being "at once inventive and historically accurate." A reviewer from Publishers Weekly noted that Alison "demonstrates familiarity and ease with her subject; and her historic detail is never pedantic." Preparation for writing the novel required heavy research, which included visits to Rome to study the ancient ruins and museum collections, as Alison told Gollin. Such trips, Alison indicated, allowed her to properly imagine Ovid's home.

Alison was also praised for her prose style and dramatic intensity. Fredric Keoppel, in his review on GoMemphis.com, wrote, "Though her prose is lyrical and her subject esoteric, Alison grounds her narrative in the rough beauty and brutal accommodations of human relationships."

While generally praised, some found faults in Alison's first novel. Richard Eder noted in his New York Times review, "What happens is not always clear. One way that writing achieves force is through omission; but sometimes Allison omits too much." Though some found the work melodramatic, this was not always taken as a fault. Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times explained, "Though some of the melodramatic events … are highly implausible on the surface, [Alison] … infuses them with the weight and inevitability of a Greek—or rather Roman—tragedy." Many, like Carlin Romano of the Philadelphia Inquirer, found The Love-Artist "a wondrous overall debut."

Two years after the publication of The Love-Artist, Alison's second novel, The Marriage of the Sea, was released. In it, the author develops a lengthy cast of characters, including a cook, a professor, an architect, and an artist. She follows all throughout their lives, and allows their paths to cross at different times in different cities, such as Venice and New Orleans. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews wrote that The Marriage of the Sea contains "the same highly controlled lushness" as Alison's first novel, but felt that "the sheer variety of people at the start can be frustrating." Elsa Gaztambide of Booklist called The Marriage of the Sea an "unorthodox and complex novel," and a contributor for Publishers Weekly commented, "Alison's poetic sensibility reveals itself in lyrical, intense prose and surprising juxtapositions."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Book, May, 2001,"First Timers," p. 12.

Booklist, April 1, 2003, Elsa Gaztambide, review of The Marriage of the Sea, p 1375.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2003, review of The Marriage of the Sea, p. 100.

Library Journal, February 1, 2001, Eleanor J. Bader, review of The Love-Artist, p. 124.

New York Times, April 24, 2001, Michiko Kakutani, review of The Love-Artist, p. 10; May 20, 2001, Richard Eder, "Metamorphoses," p. 46.

Philadelphia Inquirer, April 22, 2001, Carlin Romano, "Novelist Brings Ovid the Love Man a Nubile Witch."

Publishers Weekly, March 5, 2001, review of The Love-Artist, p. 61; February 17, 2003, review of The Marriage of the Sea, p. 55.

ONLINE

GoMemphis.com,http://gomemphis.com/ (November 9, 2001), Fredric Koeppel,"Ovid Returns for Walk on Love's Wild Side."

Princeton Alumni Weekly Online,http://www.princeton.edu/ (July 17,2001), Andrea Gollin, "Jane Shumate Alison '83 discusses her first novel, 'The Love-Artist.'"*

About this article

Alison, Jane 1961-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article