First name is pronounced "Renny"; born in Atlanta, GA; married Allen Gee. Education: University of Houston, B.A., M.F.A.
Writer. Georgia College and State University, creative writing instructor; Gotham Writers' Workshop, creative writing instructor.
A Cabinet of Wonders (novel), Toby Press (New Milford, CT), 2006.
Renee Dodd's first novel, A Cabinet of Wonders, is the story of a troupe of "freaks" working in a traveling carnival show in the late 1920s. The titular "Cabinet of Wonders" includes conjoined twins, a giant, a fat lady, a hermaphrodite and others under the leadership of a dwarf known as "Daddy" Dugan. They function as a family, with Dugan as a paternal figure, but they are starting to drift apart. They desire lives outside the carnival environment, and the carnival's audience is declining due to competition from movies and other forms of entertainment.
Several reviewers praised the novel as a sympathetic, three-dimensional portrait of the so-called freaks and the challenges of their lives. The characters are "vividly drawn," observed a Kirkus Reviews contributor, while ForeWord Magazine critic Peyton Moss noted that they "look a lot more like ourselves than we might ever have guessed." A Publishers Weekly reviewer believed that "Dodd has a tendency toward overripe prose." Library Journal commentator Lisa Rohrbaugh, however, found Dodd's writing style "graceful, smooth, and intelligent."
Dodd also received compliments on her evocation of both the 1920s and the carnival environment. Julie Failla Earhart, reviewing for Armchair Interviews, called A Cabinet of Wonders a "perfect example of historical fiction," with use of period language and details—including a mention of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel The Great Gatsby—to provide a sense of the 1920s. The Kirkus Reviews critic added that the author "obviously did her research" on the carnival setting and "makes this strange world come alive." Rohrbaugh summed up the book as a "well-researched debut novel," while the Kirkus Reviews contributor concluded that it is "a diverting and insightful piece of quirky fiction."
Renee Dodd told CA: "I've always been a bookworm, and I remember wanting to be an author ever since I came to understand that the books I loved so much existed because there were men and women out there in the world who wrote them. While growing up, I played around with being a hundred different things, but by my early twenties I realized that writing isn't something I can simply choose to do, it's something that I have to do, for the sake of my sanity.
"My approach to writing involves aiming higher than I think I can achieve, working even when the muse is giving me the silent treatment, and revising so many times that I lose count of the drafts. I hope to continue learning and growing as a novelist, and to always be brave enough to tackle any tale I feel passionate about telling.
"Although I write novels in large part to comment on the world, hoping to create smart, literary, and thought-provoking fiction, I also want my novels to be juicy, poignant and entertaining—deep down, we all read fiction in hopes of being transported, and I aim to please."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
ForeWord Magazine, November-December, 2006, Peyton Moss, review of A Cabinet of Wonders, p. 36.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2006, review of A Cabinet of Wonders, p. 689.
Library Journal, August 1, 2006, Lisa Rohrbaugh, review of A Cabinet of Wonders, p. 67.
Publishers Weekly, June 19, 2006, review of A Cabinet of Wonders, p. 39.
Union-Recorder (Milledgeville, GA), August 29, 2006, Bobby Matthews, review of A Cabinet of Wonders.
Armchair Interviews,http://www.armchairinterviews.com/ (February 27, 2007), Julie Failla Earhart, review of A Cabinet of Wonders.
Renee Dodd Home Page,http://www.reneedodd.com (February 27, 2007).