Bacon, Charlotte 1965-
BACON, Charlotte 1965-
CAREER: University of New Hampshire, Durham, associate professor of English; has also taught at Miss Porter's School, Farmington, CT; formerly a counselor, obituary writer, emergency medical technician, and tour guide in the Himalayas; worked as a journalist in Philadelphia, PA.
AWARDS, HONORS: Best short story award, Pirate's Alley/Faulkner Society, 1996, for "Live Free or Die"; PEN/Hemingway Award for first fiction, 1998, and short fiction award, Associated Writing Programs, both for A Private State; creative writing fellowship from National Endowment for the Arts, 2000; Guggenheim fellowship, 2001; named outstanding assistant professor, University of New Hampshire, 2004.
A Private State (short stories; includes "Live Free or Die"), University of Massachusetts Press (Amherst, MA), 1998.
Lost Geography (novel), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2000.
There Is Room for You (novel), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Charlotte Bacon is the author of several short stories and novels about women attempting to find their way, and to find meaning, in life. Her first book, the short story collection A Private State, won the prestigious PEN/Hemingway Award. Most of the tales are about girls and women coming of age, including a girl on a trip to her grandfather's house for the holidays; an unmarried, pregnant woman who debates what to do while on a whale-watching trip; and a fourteen-year-old who decides to take a vow of silence. "A consistent, sure voice and recurring images . . . unite these eleven stories," explained a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "creating a memorable whole."
Bacon's second book, the novel Lost Geography, traces the lives of four generations of women from one family. Margaret, a nurse on the Canadian prairie in the 1930s, first meets the man who will become her husband when he stumbles through her home's front door suffering from a fever. The two have a happy life, raising their three children on a large farm, until they are killed in a car accident on their twentieth anniversary. Their oldest daughter, Hilda, then age eighteen, leaves the farm not long after and moves to Toronto, a city that in some ways overwhelms her. "Bacon gently probes the disorientation, nostalgia, and yearning for reinvention" which Hilda experiences, suggested World and I contributor Linda Simon. Hilda becomes pregnant while in Toronto and gives birth to a daughter, Danielle. Eighteen years later Hilda, fearing that Danielle is about to settle for the life she knows rather than experiencing more of the world, encourages her to take a job working for an auction house in Paris. Heeding her mother's advice, Danielle travels to Paris, then marries half-Turkish/half-English rug dealer Osman Harris and has two children with him before passing away, too young, of a disease. Her daughter, Sophie, is the focus of the last segment of the novel, as she, Osman, and her brother Sasha move to New York. "In the end, and a satisfying ending it is," Simon continued, Sophie "manages to revive the family's spirits and begin to redraw the boundaries of what they call home." This conclusion "glows with a hard-won warmth," observed a Publishers Weekly critic. "Despite loss, disease, abuse and plain bad luck," explained a Virginian Pilot reviewer, "Bacon's characters do survive, and with imagination and grit that are remarkable and often exhilarating."
Bacon's second novel, There Is Room for You, also roams across generations and continents. Anna is in her mid-thirties when her life falls apart: her marriage collapses and her father dies in a car accident. Searching for understanding, Anna travels to India to trace her roots; her mother, Rose, was raised as the daughter of British colonialists in that country. As Anna is preparing to leave, her mother sends her a journal that she kept as a young married woman. Through stories of the daughter and the mother, told in interlocking first-person narratives, "Bacon richly explores how memory can play an integral part in a person's reaction to who they are and where they come from," Michele Filgate explained in New Hampshire Online. But more than just a story of personal understanding, There Is Room for You also provides "insightful and beguiling reflections on political history, social justice, family relations and self-worth," wrote Seattle Times critic Barbara Lloyd McMichael. Offering a different perspective on the book, Poornima Apte in a DesiJournal.com review claimed that "Bacon is at her best in recreating atmospheric detail." There Is Room for You "affords us a glimpse of India through foreign eyes," the reviewer continued, "ones that are unbiased and ruminative."
"Nothing about writing is simple," Bacon said in an interview with Shawn Macomber for Showcase Online. "It's a self-chosen torture that is ultimately very instructive at an extremely deep level. Mostly, though, it's a great way to learn about yourself and other people," "You spend a lot of time researching and thinking about why people behave the way they do. Writing keeps me very curious, very alive."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 1, 2000, Bonnie Johnston, review of Lost Geography, p. 1432; February 15, 2004, Deborah Donovan, review of There Is Room for You, p. 1034.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2004, review of There IsRoom for You, p. 47.
Library Journal, February 1, 2000, Robin Nesbitt, review of Lost Geography, p. 115; February 15, 2004, Ann H. Fisher, review of There Is Room for You, p. 159.
New York Times, March 25, 1998, "PEN Award for New Fiction Writer," p. B10.
New York Times Book Review, March 1, 1998, Lisa Zeidner, review of A Private State, p. 17.
Publishers Weekly, September 29, 1997, review of APrivate State, p. 66; February 7, 2000, review of Lost Geography, p. 59; March 8, 2004, review of There Is Room for You, p. 47.
Quill and Quire, June, 2000, review of Lost Geography, p. 49.
Seattle Times, June 20, 2004, Barbara Lloyd McMichael, review of There Is Room for You, p. K10.
Virginian Pilot, July 23, 2000, review of Lost Geography, p. E3.
Washington Post, July 6, 2004, Pankaj Mishra, review of There Is Room for You, p. C3.
World and I, November, 2000, Linda Simon, review of Lost Geography, p. 60.
DesiJournal.com,http://www.desijournal.com/ (September 13, 2004), Poornima Apte, review of There Is Room for You.
January Online,http://www.janmag.com/ (September, 2000), Margaret Gunning, review of Lost Geography.
New Hampshire Online,http://www.tnhonline.com/ (April 23, 2004), Michele Filgate, review of There Is Room for You.
Showcase Online, http://www4.fosters.com/ (April 8, 2004), Shawn Macomber, "A Storied Life: Charlotte Bacon Draws on Experiences in There Is Room for You."
University of Massachusetts Press Web site,http://www.umass.edu/ (September 13, 2004), George Cuomo, review of A Private State.
University of New Hampshire Magazine Online,http://www.unhmagazine.unh.edu/ (fall, 2000), Anne Downey, review of Lost Geography; (fall, 2001), "Campus Currents: Citations."
University of New Hampshire Web site,http://www.unh.edu/ (September 13, 2004), Erika Mantz, "Faculty Recognized for Excellence: Three Winners Will Speak at September 14 Academic Convocation"; (September 29, 2004), "English Department Faculty."
Wakefield Public Library Web site,http://www.wakefieldlibrary.org/ (July 28, 2000), Charlotte Thompson, review of Lost Geography.
Zoetrope: All-Story Online,http://www.all-story.com/ (September 13, 2004), "Charlotte Bacon."