Manley, Frank 1930-

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MANLEY, Frank 1930-

PERSONAL: Born Francis A. Manley, November 13, 1930, in Scranton, PA; son of Aloysius F. and Kathryn (Needham) Manley; married Carolyn Holliday, March 14, 1952; children: Evelyn, Mary. Education: Emory University, B.A., 1952, M.A., 1953; Johns Hopkins University, Ph.D., 1959.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, 245 West 17th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10011-5300.

CAREER: Yale University, New Haven, CT, started as instructor, became assistant professor, 1959-63; Emory University, Atlanta, GA, associate professor, then professor, 1964-2000, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Renaissance Literature, 1982-2000, Director of Creative Writing Program, 1990-2000; retired, 2000. Military service: U.S. Army, 1953-55, became specialist third class.

AWARDS, HONORS: Samuel S. Fels Foundation Fellowship, 1958-59; Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, 1966-67, 1978-79; Translation Program Fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1981-1983; Distinguished Teaching Award, 1984; University Scholar and Teacher of the Year Award, 1989; Distinguished Alumnus Award, The Marist School, 1993; Creative Writing Fellowship in Fiction, National Endowment for the Arts, 1995-97; Devins Award for Poetry, for Resultances; co-winner of the Great American New Play Contest, Humana Festival, for Two Masters. The film version of The Cockfighter won first prize at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, 2003.


Resultances (poetry), University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1980.

Some Poems and Some Talk about Poetry, Floyd C. Watkins, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 1985.

Two Masters: A Play in Two Parts, S. French (New York, NY), 1985.

Two Masters: Prior Engagements, S. Hunter (Atlanta, GA), 1987.

Within the Ribbons: Nine Stories, North Point Press (San Francisco, CA), 1989.

The Cockfighter (novel), Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1998.

Among Prisoners (short stories), Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2000.

The Emperors (poetry), Turtle Point Press (New York, NY), 2001.

True Hope (novel), Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2002.


John Donne, The Anniversaries, Johns Hopkins Press (Baltimore, MD), 1963.

(And translator, with Richard S. Sylvester), Richard Pace, De Fructu qui ex Doctrina Percipitur, Renaissance Society of America (New York, NY), 1966.

George Chapman, All Fools, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1968.

(And author of notes and introduction, with Louis L. Martz) Sir Thomas More, A Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1977.

(And translator, and author of notes and introduction), Letter of Bugenhagen (Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St. Thomas More), Yale University Press, (New Haven, CT), 1991.

Also author of the plays The Evidence, 1991, and The Trap, 1993.

ADAPTATIONS: The Cockfighter was adapted for stage and film.

SIDELIGHTS: "Frank Manley has emerged as one of the most promising new voices in modern Southern literature," wrote Sudip Bose of Washington Post Book World in 1998. Manley has won awards for his poetry and plays and has more recently earned critical attention with his fiction. In a review of his book Among Prisoners, a critic for Kirkus Reviews praised Manley as "one of the best storytellers now writing."

In his first fiction collection, Within the Ribbons, "Manley takes us deep into Flannery O'Connor territory," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. The nine short stories have a religious theme and feature mainly female protagonists. "The Rain of Terror" tells of a poor couple who take in an escaped convict, hoping to profit from his stolen money, but realizing too late that this will cause disaster. "58 Babylon Dread Bean" follows a woman riding an escalator to ultimate grace. "Within the Ribbons" involves a realization in the life of a single, middle-aged woman given to her through a freak accident and a bridal bouquet. Other stories in the collection include "The Errand of Mercy," about a stroke victim who uses a Ouija board to communicate; "A Joy Forever," about two women coming to terms with their pasts; "The Concisest Tenant"; "The Baptism of Water"; "Chickamauga"; and "The Call of Nature." Beth Levine of New York Times Book Review noted, "Manley writes in a richly entertaining style that effectively incorporates the Southern tradition of oral storytelling." Sybil Steinberg, writing for Publishers Weekly, noted that what sets Manley apart from other Southern gothic-style writers "is an extraordinarily sensitive ear and a good humored, deep understanding of the people who inhabit his world."

Manley's 1998 novel, The Cockfighter, is the comingof-age story of a twelve-year-old boy, named in the book only as Boy or Sonny. Jake, the boy's rough father, gives Sonny a gamecock to train for fighting, expecting Sonny to become a man through the process of learning the rituals of the sport. Sonny, however, wanting affection from his father and ashamed of his closeness with his mother, develops an unhealthy attachment to the gamecock, naming it Lion and thinking of it as a friend. When Lion is mauled by a competing gamecock, Sonny has to deal with the bird's death alone. David Murray wrote for the New York Times that Manley writes "with little passion but with carefully chosen detail" and went on to compare The Cockfighter to God's Little Acre by Erskine Caldwell, saying that though they are similar, The Cockfighter "acquires its own distinctive mythic fighter." Kay Hogan of the Library Journal praised the story, stating that despite the often violent content, "this is a sensitive portrayal of lost illusions and courage." Sudip Bose concluded, "There is much to admire here, especially in Manley's graceful prose . . . he captures perfectly the cadenced voices of these simple country people without ever patronizing them or rendering them as caricatures." The Cockfighter "could easily have fallen prey to the maudlin and familiar," wrote a critic from Kirkus Reviews, "but it rises soaringly above both, thanks to its author's wonderful timing, eye, ear—and heart."

Among Prisoners is a collection of eight short stories dealing with characters who are prisoners—either because they are literally prisoners or because they are trapped in their life situations and unable to escape. The narrator of "Thank God Almighty" is a convict who watches as the county commissioner continually breaks laws himself. In "Badass," a wife uncovers her prison-guard husband's four-decade-old lie about the murder of a black prisoner. The story "The Indian Way" revolves around a white man whose marriage to an older Native-American woman has broken. "The Housekeeper" and "What" both feature widows struggling with their isolation; in "The Evidence," truth becomes a type of prison when a man announces that he's been abducted by Bigfoot; and "Mr. Butterfuly" tells of a former soldier who is unsatisfied by his mailorder brides, of which he has had several. Only Uncle Bud, in a story titled after him, seems to find an escape from his prison. A reviewer in Publisher's Weekly commented about the book's many narrative voices: "Several [stories] feature lively, complex narrators who confess uneasy truths of their lives in monologue form." A critic for Kirkus Reviews called Among Prisoners a "fine second collection of eight emotionally charged stories."

True Hope, Manley's 2002 novel, "is a worthy successor to his first novel," proclaimed a writer for the Economist. A critic for Kirkus Reviews considered it "another poignant, psychologically probing tale from one of the brightest new lights of southern fiction." In the novel, Al Cantrell has just finished his jail sentence. His wife had died years before, and it was due to his grieving for her death that he set out on a downward spiral of alcohol and crime. Now a free man, though still struggling with his past, Cantrell moves in with his father-in-law, Tom. Tom gets Al a job working for a corrupt politician, but in the process of doing his dirty work for him, Tom ends up dying in an accident. Al, having started a relationship with Laurie, goes off with her to disastrous effect. A reviewer in Publisher's Weekly praised Al's narrative voice and concluded, "The gifted Manley . . . exhibits his formidable ability to evoke the lives of the down-and-out in the Deep South." Lawrence Rungren of Library Journal called it "a tough and tender tale," and a critic for Kirkus Reviews wrote that the themes of hope and resilience portrayed in Al's character "give a heat that fires all the characters, no matter how self-interested, with a common humanity and a flash of noble purpose." True Hope, according to Daniel Woodrell of Washington Post Book World, "is a humble novel, plain-spoken, quietly masterful in its rhythms and insights, sneaky humor and grace."

Along with his works of fiction, Manley is also the author and editor of several scholarly texts. His scholarship on Renaissance literature and his translation of the works of Thomas More have influenced his poetry.



Booklist, March 15, 1998, Joe Collins, review of The Cockfighter, p. 1202.

Christian Century, December 4, 2002, review of The Emperors, p. 31.

Economist (U.S.), June 8, 2002, "True Grit; New Fiction."

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 1998, review of The Cockfighter, p. 73; December 15, 1999, review of Among Prisoners, p. 1906; April 1, 2002, review of True Hope, p. 445.

Library Journal, April 1, 1998, Kay Hogan, review of The Cockfighter, p. 124; January 2000, Joshua Cohen, review of Among Prisoners, p. 165; May 15, 2002, Lawrence Rungren, review of True Hope.

New York Times Book Review, August 20, 1989, Beth Levine, review of Within the Ribbons, p. 20; May 10, 1998, David Murray, review of The Cockfighter, p. 21.

Publishers Weekly, May 12, 1989, Sybil Steinberg, review of Within the Ribbons, p. 280; January 26, 1998, review of The Cockfighter, p. 70; December 6, 1999, review of Among Prisoners, p. 52; March 11, 2002, review of True Hope, p. 49.

Washington Post, July 26, 1989, Jonathan Yardley, review of Within the Ribbons, p. c2.

Washington Post Book World, May 10, 1998, Sudip Bose, review of The Cockfighter, p. 9; July 28, 2002, Daniel Woodrell, review of True Hope, p. T7.


Denver Post, (March 5, 2000), Jean Charbonneau, review of Among Prisoners.