Glass, Julia 1956-
Glass, Julia 1956-
Born 1956, in MA; children: two sons. Education: Graduate of Yale University. Hobbies and other interests: Designing and hooking rugs.
Writer, journalist, editor, artist, and designer. Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, member of staff; Cosmopolitan, New York, NY, copy editor. Exhibitions: Art exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the National Academy of Design.
Pirate's Alley Faulkner Society Medal, 1999, for Collies (first part of Three Junes); New York Foundation for the Arts fellow, 2000; National Book Award, 2002, for Three Junes; three Nelson Algren Awards and the Tobias Wolff Award; Radcliffe Institute fellow, 2004-05.
Three Junes, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2002.
The Whole World Over: A Novel, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to periodicals, including the Bellingham Review and Chicago Tribune.
Julia Glass is both an artist and a writer. After graduating from Yale University, the art major was awarded a fellowship to study in France, and upon her return to the States, Glass worked at Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum in her native Massachusetts. In 1980, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a copy editor and continued her painting. Glass had always loved to write, and she found herself spending more and more time creating short stories.
Glass's novella Souvenirs, loosely based on her visit to Greece during 1979, the year of the fellowship, was never published, but Glass rewrote it, renamed it "Collies," and used it for the first part of Three Junes, a three-part novel that takes place during the Junes of 1989, 1995, and 1999. Denver Post contributor John Freeman noted that, although Glass uses more than one narrator, her prose "remains supple and light throughout, full of delicate little ellipses that evoke the fullness, the strangeness of consciousness. When it comes to scenery, too, Glass takes nothing for granted." Freeman added: "Glass goes out of her way to capture the texture of light, the scent of breezes." Glass took a character from Souvenirs, fashioned after an older man she had met, and created Paul McLeod, a newspaper publisher and head of a family from Dumfries, an area of Scotland Glass had visited as a teen. As the story begins in 1989, Paul's wife, Maureen, who raises Collies, dies of lung cancer, and Paul retreats to Greece, where he meets and is consoled by Fern, a young artist who reappears in the third section.
Glass told Claudia La Rocco in an interview for the Arizona Republic that before she began the novel, she had been working on another when she was told she had breast cancer. She also lost a younger sister to suicide. She put away the unfinished novel, and her grief and despair were absorbed into the character of Paul. Glass told La Rocco: "I came to feel that what I wanted to write, in essence, was a book about living beyond incurable heartbreak and irreparable loss."
The "Upright" section begins six years later, in 1995. Paul has died, and his eldest son, Fenno, and twin sons, David and Dennis, and their wives, are in Scotland arranging the funeral. Fenno has come from New York, where he studied literature and stayed to open a book shop with an inheritance from a deceased grandfather under the tutelage of a generous gay mentor, Ralph Quayle. Fenno's relationship with his father had been troubled. While Paul had hoped Fenno would take over the newspaper business, the shy and mannerly Scot was happiest living in the West Village, where he blended into gay society, but seldom participated. There he meets witty New York Times music critic Malachy, or Mal, Burns, who, because he is dying of AIDS, asks Fenno to care for his pet parrot, Felicity. Soon the bird becomes a fixture in Fenno's bookstore, Plume.
New York Times Book Review contributor Katherine Wolff called Mal "a marvelously drawn character." Wolff added: "The dying critic displays a delicious blend of blasphemy and wit." Fenno has a lover named Tony, and when their relationship ends, they remain friends. The final section, titled "Boys," finds Fenno and his brother, David, becoming closer. He and Fern meet at Ralph's Fire Island summer home, but they never learn of their connection.
BookPage reviewer and interviewer Alden Mudge wrote that Glass "thinks of her novel as triptych rather than a trilogy, similar in form to ‘the altar pieces that I loved so much when I was studying art. You'd have a momentous central religious image and, to either side, images of the patrons who paid for the altar piece facing in toward this rich, very complicated, colorful central image.’"
Wolff also noted that "masterfully, Three Junes shows how love follows a circuitous path, how its messengers come to wear disguises. Julia Glass has written a generous book about family expectations—but also about happiness, luck, and, as she puts its, the ‘grandiosity of genes.’" Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor Mark Rozzo wrote that the novel "goes after the big issues without a trace of fustiness and gives us a memorable hero." Writing in the Lambda Book Report, Walter Wadas commented that Three Junes "is a subtly textured, emotionally rich tale, written in language equally affecting. Julia Glass has in Fenno McLeod created a major character, a gay male protagonist, with a complete melodrama of a life. And that's very satisfying to read."
In her second book, The Whole World Over: A Novel, Glass writes of Greenie Duquette, whose skill at pastry making lands her a job as the personal chef to the governor of New Mexico. As a result, Greenie leaves behind her therapist husband, Alan, in Manhattan and goes off to New Mexico with their son. The story also follows Greenie's friend, restaurant owner Mathew, who is infatuated with lawyer Gordie. Meanwhile Gordie's partner, Stephen, wants a child. As for Alan, whose practice is fading, he begins treating Saga, a memory-loss patient who not longer feels she has a purpose in life. Various others lives intersect in the story, including Fenno from Three Junes.
Once again, reviewers praised Glass's effort. "Glass knows what she's doing," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor of The Whole World Over. "Readers who love quirky characters and a gentle wit that breathes affection even as it skewers human foolishness and frailty will follow her anywhere." Bette-Lee Fox, writing in the Library Journal, noted that the author's "always captivating tale is a quilt of many colors and motivations." Several reviewers also commented on Glass's ability to capture family life. Noting that the author "finds inspiration in the vicissitudes of family strife," Elizabeth Judd wrote in the Atlantic that "watching Glass sort out a dozen intersecting story lines is never less than fascinating."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlantic, May, 2006, Elizabeth Judd, review of The Whole World Over: A Novel, p. 127.
Booklist, March 1, 2006, Kristine Huntley, review of The Whole World Over, p. 44.
Boston Globe, August 2, 2006, Joe Yonan, "Baking with Julia," interview with author.
Denver Post, December 15, 2002, John Freeman, review of Three Junes.
Detroit Free Press, June 14, 2006, Marta Salij, review of The Whole World Over.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2006, review of The Whole World Over, p. 369.
Lambda Book Report, September, 2002, Walter Wadas, review of Three Junes, p. 21.
Library Journal, March 15, 2006, Bette-Lee Fox, review of The Whole World Over, p. 62.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, May 26, 2002, Mark Rozzo, review of Three Junes, p. 14.
New York Times Book Review, June 16, 2002, Katherine Wolff, review of Three Junes, p. 16; June 11, 2006, Lorraine Adams, review of The Whole World Over, p. 8(L).
Publishers Weekly, February 27, 2006, review of The Whole World Over, p. 30.
Writer, November, 2003, Ronald Kovach, interview with Julia Glass, p. 23.
Arizona Republic Online,http://arizonarepublic.com/ (January 26, 2003), Claudia La Rocco, "Julia Glass Finds Her Native Tongue," interview.
BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (December 13, 2002), Alden Mudge, "A New Canvas for Julia Glass," interview.
Reading Group Guides,http://www.readinggroupguides.com/ (December 13, 2002), interview with Glass.