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Casey, Maud

Casey, Maud

PERSONAL: Born in Iowa City, IA; daughter of John Casey (a writer) and Jane Barnes (a writer). Education: Wesleyan University, B.A.; University of Arizona, M.F.A.

ADDRESSES: Home—Washington, DC. Agent—Alice Tasman, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, 216 E. 75th St., Ste. 1E, New York, NY 10021. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Writing instructor at University of Maryland, College Park, MD, and Goddard College, Plainfield, VT. Former writing instructor at Illinois Wesleyan University; former staff member at H.E.L.P. Haven Shelter and Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, New York, NY; has also held various temporary positions.

AWARDS, HONORS: Pushcart Prize special mention, 1997 and 2003, both for stories published in Drastic; New York Times Book of the Year selection, 2001, for The Shape of Things to Come.

WRITINGS:

The Shape of Things to Come (novel), Morrow (New York, NY), 2001.

Drastic (short stories), Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.

Genealogy (novel), HarperPerennial (New York, NY), 2006.

Also author of The Art of Reading Barbara Comyns: Gather Your Hats While You May; contributor of short stories to Georgia Review, Threepenny Review, and Confrontation; contributor of book reviews to New York Times Book Review, Salon, and Newsday; contributor of a nonfiction essay on mental illness for the anthology Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression.

SIDELIGHTS: Maud Casey used a bland Midwestern background and a series of ridiculous temp jobs as fodder for her first novel, The Shape of Things to Come. Its heroine is thirty-three-year-old Isabelle, who must return to live with her mother in suburban Illinois after she loses her job in San Francisco. Isabelle takes a temping position as a mystery shopper—as Casey once did herself—giving her an avenue for exploring the inanities of suburban life. Isabelle also finds herself staying home while her divorced mother, Adeline, dates a series of men she finds though personal ads; her own love life offers the choice of a peeping-Tom neighbor or an old high school boyfriend.

With her first effort, Casey earned a wide variety of reviews. A Publishers Weekly reviewer said the satire of the book was shallow, describing it as "striving for humor and poignancy, but never quite achieving either." In contrast, Valerie Sayers, writing for the New York Times, said that although the novel "doesn't have any real scoops" about the suburban life it skewers, Casey succeeds in "posing the most vexing questions about human existence while satirizing the materialistic ways we find to hold our despair at a distance."

Casey's novel Genealogy concerns a fractured family and is told in the various viewpoints of its tormented members: Bernard, the father who is obsessed with the story of a nineteenth-century Belgian girl who developed a stigmata; Samantha, his wife, who has an affair with the carpenter hired to redesign their bathroom; Ryan, their son, who has embarked to California with his rock band; and their daughter Marguerite, a manic-depressive who has run away from home in search of her brother and who ultimately ends up in a mental hospital. The many-layered novel takes place partly on the road and contains many ruminations on the nature of mental illness and religious salvation. In a review for Booklist, Joanne Wilkinson praised the novel for its "sonorous meditations on the notion of attaining ecstasy in everyday life." Other critics pointed out the book's somewhat implausible dialogue, but Jay Bowers, in an article for the Baltimore City Paper, surmised that the book is really about Casey's struggle with writer's block and her new-found love of research, particularly that of Louise Lateau, the real-life girl who received the stigmata and with whom the character Bernard is obsessed. "The girl haunts [Genealogy] like a ghost, informing and influencing the … novel's four narrative voices," Bowers observed.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 1, 2006, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Genealogy, p. 60.

City Paper (Baltimore, MD), September 15, 2004, Jay Bowers, "Transition Words: For Author Maud Casey, Moving to Baltimore Has Led to Writer's Block, Obsession, and Her Most Ambitious Book Yet."

Kirkus Reviews, February, 2001, review of The Shape of Things to Come, pp. 124-125; April 1, 2006, review of Genealogy, p. 309.

New York Times, May 6, 2001, Valerie Sayers, "The Lady Is a Temp."

Publishers Weekly, February 26, 2001, review of The Shape of Things to Come, p. 56; March 27, 2006, review of Genealogy, p. 55.

ONLINE

Bookreporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (August 22, 2001), Megan Kalan, review of The Shape of Things to Come.

Maud Casey Web site, http://www.maudcasey.com (September 29, 2006).

Salon, http://www.salon.com/ (May 10, 2001), introduction to audio clip of The Shape of Things to Come.

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