McNamer, Deirdre 1950-
McNamer, Deirdre 1950-
Home—Missoula, MT. Office—Department of English, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812; fax: 406-243-4076. E-mail—[email protected]
University of Montana, Missoula, professor of creative writing. Journalist for more than ten years; instructor at University of Oregon, Cornell University, University of Alabama, Williams College, and Thurber House, Columbus, OH.
National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship for professional journalists.
Rima in the Weeds (novel), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.
One Sweet Quarrel (historical novel), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
My Russian (novel), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1999.
Red Rover (novel), Viking (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor of short stories, articles, and reviews to New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, Outside, Ploughshares, and DoubleTake.
Deirdre McNamer once commented that her "primary aim as an author is to leave the reader feeling amplified, entranced, wiser and wanting more." When writing she sees herself as her primary audience, she wrote: "I try to make what I write interesting, musical, compelling to myself. Then I try to put myself in the place of astute readers—those who come fresh to the material and bring with them curiosity, a sense of humor, critical faculties, appreciation for a story well-told, and language that moves." Listing her primary influences as Alice Munro, Edna O'Brien, Eudora Welty, Louise Erdrich, and Flannery O'Connor, McNamer told CA: "What I admire most about them is their combination of boldness and precision, their shadowy humor, and the presence in their writing of a certain faith in the intangible."
McNamer's first three novels were well received by critics. Several reviewers commented on the way McNamer progresses in telling her story. "McNamer does lovely things with point of view—running through a scene, stopping, backing up, then playing it through again from a different angle of vision," observed Carol Anshaw in a Chicago Tribune Book assessment of McNamer's first novel, Rima in the Weeds. New York Times Book Review contributor Robert Houston also noted McNamer's non-chronological method of presenting the life-span of the Malone family in One Sweet Quarrel: McNamer "allow[s] those lives to come to us as our own memories do, in fragments, moments, rediscovered letters. Ms. McNamer fractures time at will by leaping from present tense to past to no tense at all—sometimes just giving us rapid, snapshotlike images.… As a result, history becomes what it truly is in our lives; not an orderly sequence of time, but a collection of times." Houston reported that, although for some this style might prove frustrating at times and her detailed descriptions may occasionally "overwhelm the story," McNamer succeeds by using "marvelous prose" to present a "vivid" portrait. Susan Bolotin's New York Times Book Review critique of McNamer's next novel, My Russian, similarly noted: "McNamer is a careful writer, a master of the small, telling observation, but her plotting slows things down."
"My Russian is set in an unnamed college town in the Northwest.… [It's] a woman's story … [that] whirl[s] around a misreported crime … [and] confront[s] issues of class," stated Bolotin, further describing the work as an "intimate [tale] of character played out against the largest of social backdrops." Unknown to her family, protagonist Francesca Woodbridge returns home early from her solo, identity-altering vacation. She remains in hiding while secretly observing her husband and son, and remembering and analyzing her life in order to gain a new perspective. "Her compulsion to see herself from the outside in doesn't feel like a falling apart; instead, it's more like a coming together—the need to meld self and identity that one usually associates with coming of age. And this is what I like most about My Russian," wrote Bolotin. In addition to being "honest, straightforward, and clear," observed Michelle Kaske in Booklist, "Francesca's storytelling feels like a longtime friend confessing over coffee." Yvette Weller Olson also felt that Francesca is "a character to care about." Olson "highly recommended" My Russian in Library Journal, calling it "a bold, splendid novel … piercingly intuitive … provocative, compelling story." A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded: "Other than a few moments of stilted dialogue, the narrative pulses and flows like good poetry—and its searing portrait of the consequences of choosing comfort over desire is memorable."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 70: Yearbook 1991, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
Booklist, January 15, 1991, review of Rima in the Weeds, p. 1007; February 1, 1994, Donna Seaman, review of One Sweet Quarrel, p. 994; September 1, 1997, review of Rima in the Weeds, p. 65; May 15, 1999, Michelle Kaske, review of My Russian, p. 1669.
Boston Phoenix, June, 1991, review of Rima in the Weeds.
Elle, June, 1991, review of Rima in the Weeds, p. 88.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 1990, review of Rima in the Weeds, p. 1563; February 1, 1994, review of One Sweet Quarrel, p. 90.
Library Journal, January, 1991, Thomas Kilpatrick, review of Rima in the Weeds, p. 154; September 1, 1991, review of Rima in the Weeds, p. 268; February 15, 1994, Jane S. Bakerman, review of One Sweet Quarrel, p. 184; April 15, 1999, Yvette Weller Olson, review of My Russian, p. 144.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, February 8, 1991, review of Rima in the Weeds, p. E12; May 1, 1994, review of One Sweet Quarrel, p. 3.
Missoulian, March 8, 1991, review of Rima in the Weeds, p. E14.
New York Times Book Review, February 17, 1991, Ron Carlson, review of Rima in the Weeds, p. 9; February 2, 1992, review of Rima in the Weeds, p. 28; July 17, 1994, Robert Houston, review of One Sweet Quarrel, p. 9; December 4, 1994, review of One Sweet Quarrel, p. 71; April 2, 1995, review of One Sweet Quarrel, p. 24; July 11, 1999, Susan Bolotin, review of My Russian, p. 18.
Publishers Weekly, December 14, 1990, review of Rima in the Weeds, p. 53; January 1, 1992, review of Rima in the Weeds, p. 53; February 28, 1994, review of One Sweet Quarrel, p. 74; April 12, 1999, review of My Russian, p. 52.
San Diego Union, February 17, 1991, review of Rima in the Weeds.
San Francisco Review of Books, annual edition, 1994, review of One Sweet Quarrel, p. 10.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), February 24, 1991, Carol Anshaw, review of Rima in the Weeds, p. 1; February 16, 1992, review of Rima in the Weeds, p. 2.
Women's Review of Books, July, 1991, review of Rima in the Weeds, p. 40; July, 1994, Linda Niemann, review of One Sweet Quarrel, p. 47.