PERSONAL: Married Steve Coll (a journalist); children: three.
ADDRESSES: Home—Bethesda, MD. Agent—c/o Melanie Jackson Agency, 250 W. 57th Street, Ste. 1119, New York, NY 10019.
Karlmarx.com: A Love Story (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.
Rockville Pike: A Suburban Comedy of Manners (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
Articles and reviews have appeared in numerous periodicals, including International Herald Tribune, Washington Post Book World, and Asian Wall Street Journal.
SIDELIGHTS: Susan Coll writes humorous, satiric novels whose heroines face crises they seemingly have little ability to control. In Karlmarx.com: A Love Story, Coll tells the story of Ella Kennedy, a graduate student who is writing her thesis on Karl Marx's daughter Eleanor Marx. When Ella's father refuses to keep funding her education, she joins the Institute of Thought and goes to Washington, DC, to help establish a Web site devoted to selling Karl Marx paraphernalia. Soon she is involved with a handsome but married English ornithologist who can think of little but himself. Ella cannot help but recognize that many aspects of her life mirror the life of her thesis subject, especially her relationships with her father and lover. Eleanor Marx's ultimate fate was tragic, and Ella wonders if the same fate awaits her. Writing in Booklist, Bonnie Johnston called the novel's end "unsatisfying," but called Karlmarx.com "a poignant tale of insecurity and obsession." Jana Siciliano, writing on BookReporter.com, called the novel "hysterically funny" and noted, "Ella's voice, so clearly given life by author Coll's remarkably supple writing, is wonderfully transporting."
Coll turns her attention to the middle class and suburbia in Rockville Pike: A Suburban Comedy of Manners. At the age of forty-one, Jane Kramer realizes just how far her life has strayed from the dreams she once had as a literature major in college. At the root of her problems are her teenage son, who is going through a Goth phase, and her marriage, which is in trouble. Her overweight husband may be having an affair, and the competition is Delia, who sells patio furniture to her father-in-law's business, Kramer's Discount Furniture Depot, where Jane also works. Seeking some kind of solace, Jane makes daily visits to the grave sites of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, which are just off the Rockville Pike, where the furniture store is located. Trying to break out of her everyday life anyway she can, she becomes involved with Memories, Inc., a pyramid scheme based on selling scrapbook items to lonely, desperate housewives living on memories. Before long, Jane's son is expelled and flees to New York and her husband is on a "business trip" with Delia. Jane decides to track both her husband and her son down and in the process confronts her unsatisfying life.
Writing in the Washington Post Book World, Ann Hood commented that "Coll is at her best when she sticks to satirizing suburban manners, their everyday rituals and routines." Hood went on to note that Rockville Pike "struggles toward a climax" but added "there are few books that have readers laughing out loud the way this one does." A Publishers Weekly contributor commented, "Coll perfectly captures Jane's coming of a certain age with feisty humor and soul-searching honesty." Meredith Parets, writing in Booklist, noted the author "deftly satirizes suburbia without sacrificing warmth for humor."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2001, Bonnie Johnston, review of Karlmarx.com: A Love Story, p. 1255; January 1, 2005, Meredith Parets, review of Rockville Pike: A Suburban Comedy of Manners, p. 813.
MBR Bookwatch, February, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of Rockville Pike.
People, January 17, 2005, Moira Bailey, review of Rockville Pike, p. 61.
Publishers Weekly, April 2, 2001, review of Karlmarx.com, p. 39; December 13, 2004, review of Rockville Pike, p. 46.
Washington Post Book World, January 9, 2005, Ann Hood, review of Rockville Pike, p. BW06.
Simon & Schuster Web site, http://www.simonsays.com/ (March 24, 2005).