Dressler, Mylène 1963-
DRESSLER, Mylène 1963-
PERSONAL: Born 1963, in The Hague, Netherlands. Education: Rice University, Ph.D.
CAREER: Author. University of St. Thomas, Houston, TX, professor of literature; University of Texas at Austin, visiting writer. Has also worked as a dancer.
MEMBER: Texas Institute of Letters.
AWARDS, HONORS: Best Books of 2001 selection, Christian Science Monitor, 2001, for The Deadwood Beetle; Paisano fellowship in literature, University of Texas at Austin, 2002; Fulbright scholarship; writing residencies from Hedgebrook Foundation and Syvenna Foundation.
The Medusa Tree (novel), MacMurray & Beck (Denver, CO), 1997.
The Deadwood Beetle (novel), BlueHen Books (New York, NY), 2001.
My Little Blue Dress (novel), Penguin Putnam (New York, NY), 2003.
The Floodmakers (novel), G. P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2004.
Author's works have been translated into several languages, including French, Dutch, and Turkish.
SIDELIGHTS: Mylène Dressler has earned a reputation as a sensitive writer whose books often feature unusual families with deeply buried secrets. Her first novel, The Medusa Tree, is narrated by Marget, a young, unmarried woman who finds herself pregnant. Marget travels to northern California to stay with her grandmother, Fan, and Fan's longtime companion, Gerda. Gerda and Fan's story overshadows Marget's, as Dressler weaves the story of their past into Marget's current circumstances. Library Journal contributor Beth E. Andersen found that the love shared by the three women makes for a "vibrant story," and Booklist reviewer Nancy Pearl called Dressler's book "lyrical." Pearl felt that the mingling of Marget's story with Fan and Gerda's is somewhat flawed. A Publishers Weekly writer also found this plot device to be a weakness in The Medusa Tree, but they praised the book for "vividly" evoking its settings.
The Deadwood Beetle, Dressler's second novel, is "permeated by guilt and memory," according to New York Times Book Review commentator James Polk. In this story, an aging professor named Tristan Martens finds a relic of his youth in an antique shop—his mother's old sewing table, defaced with a cryptic message. The discovery triggers memories he has worked hard to avoid, including those of his youth in Holland during World War II, as well as contact with his estranged wife and son. The supporting characters, including the shop owner and Martens's graduate student, contribute to the professor's growing understanding of life in general and, namely, his life. The result, Polk found, is a novel filled with "splendid ambivalence." Booklist critic Nancy Pearl stated that Dressler "convincingly demonstrates" that "the heart's terrain is frequently complicated, messy, and confusing, scarred by memory and difficult to comprehend."
The Floodmakers is a "mischievous tale of a family weekend from hell," told with "a delicious level of drollery," noted Booklist contributor Donna Seaman. The plot involves a famous southern playwright, Dee Buelle; Dee's son Harry, who feels it is time to tell his father he is gay; and Harry's lively stepmother, Jeanie. When Dee decides to stop taking her vital heart medications, Jeanie calls Harry home, and he is soon joined by his epileptic sister and her husband, who are making a film documentary about Jeanie and Dee. Their camera work reveals some long-buried secrets which test the bonds that hold the family together. Writing in Library Journal, Jenn B. Stidham compared the book to the work of Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill. Stidham called The Floodmakers a "tense interior drama" colored with "welcome, if dry, humor."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 1997, Nancy Pearl, review of TheMedusa Tree, p. 1477; September 1, 2001, Nancy Pearl, review of The Deadwood Beetle, p. 49; April 1, 2004, Donna Seaman, review of The Floodmakers, p. 1346.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2004, review of TheFloodmakers, p. 50.
Library Journal, April 1, 1997, Beth E. Andersen, review of The Medusa Tree, p. 124; September 1, 2001, Harold Augenbraum, review of The Deadwood Beetle, p. 232; February 1, 2004, Jenn B. Stidham, review of The Floodmakers, p. 122.
New York Times Book Review, November 18, 2001, James Polk, review of The Deadwood Beetle, p. 68.
Publishers Weekly, March 10, 1997, review of TheMedusa Tree, p. 48; August 27, 2001, review of The Deadwood Beetle, p. 50; March 22, 2004, review of The Floodmakers, p. 60.
Mylene Dressler Web site,http://www.mylenedressler.com (October 6, 2004).*