Office—Fairleigh Dickinson University, 285 Madison Ave., M-MSI-04, Madison, NJ 07940.
Educator and author. Former instructor at Rutgers University and the New School University; Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, NJ, faculty member. Visiting writer, American Academy in Rome; resident writer, Yaddo.
National Arts Club (director of PAGE reading series).
New Voices Award finalist, Quality Paperback Book Club, 2000, for Paisley Girl.
Paisley Girl (novel), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Contributor to Hot Spots: The Best Modern Erotic Fiction. Also contributor to periodicals, including Poets & Writers, Boston Globe, and the New York Review of Books.
Fran Gordon's debut novel, Paisley Girl, is about a former rock band groupie who, after contracting a rare disease called mast cell leukemia that causes paisley-like marks to form on her skin, embarks on a journey of self-discovery. After learning that her doctors cannot cure her, the narrator—known only as Paisley in the story—is discharged from the hospital, armed only with some antihistamines that help prevent internal bleeding. She first visits her brother, and then moves in briefly with her parents. Her parents, though, have trouble dealing with their daughter's illness, and so Paisley uses her old boyfriend Crash's credit card to travel to Barbados, where she hopes to attain some sort of peace before dying. Once there, she encounters colorful characters and becomes involved in cocaine smuggling. The drug trade in Barbados completes a theme of drug references throughout the book, from the drug culture of the entertainment industry with which Paisley had once associated to the prescription drugs involved in her medical treatment.
Although the centerpiece of the novel appears at first to be Paisley's illness, as Laura Morgan Green pointed out in her Salon, review, "The novel most vividly evokes the alienation not of terminal illness but of hipness, the diasporic culture to which the heroine belongs." Booklist contributor Bonnie Johnston similarly noted that the story is not about illness so much as "the inner struggle of a woman who refuses to accept the soulless sterility of the life she has been leading." Despite this focus, the narrator's flashbacks to her encounters with the likes of musicians and singers such as B. B. King and Madonna were not as intriguing to reviewers as the author's original character creations; Green even found the constant "name-dropping" a little tiresome. The critic added, "More gripping, touching and pleasingly eccentric are her encounters with the non-and infamous," including street people, transvestites, and a Barbadian fruit dealer. Green concluded that although this episodic novel lacks much tension, "the journey is vivid, inventive and often very funny." And a Publishers Weekly reviewer added that Gordon's "stylish tale of illness and self-discovery will be particularly appreciated by members of her generation." Gordon, who suffers from mast cell leukemia herself, has obviously taken her readers on a very personal journey.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 1, 1999, Bonnie Johnston, review of Paisley Girl, p. 508.
Library Journal, September 1, 1999, Amanda Fung, review of Paisley Girl, p. 232.
Publishers Weekly, August 16, 1999, review of Paisley Girl, p. 59.
Salon,http://www.salon.com/ (October 15, 1999), Laura Morgan Green, review of Paisley Girl. *