PERSONAL: Born in Helena, MT. Education: University of California-Irvine, M.F.A.
ADDRESSES: Home—CA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
CAREER: Fiction writer.
AWARDS, HONORS: Aga Khan Prize, Paris Review, 2000, for "Aqua Boulevard."
Half in Love (stories), Scribner (New York, NY), 2002.
Liars and Saints (novel), Scribner (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to literary journals and periodicals, including Ploughshares, Paris Review, Ontario Review, and the New Yorker.
SIDELIGHTS: Maile Meloy was born and raised in Montana and then moved to California. The majority of the stories in her first collection, Half in Love, are set in the American West. They were described by Washington Post Book World's Susan Adams as "an original mix of quiet calm and wrenching pain." Adams added that Meloy's "gracefully confident and subtly emotional voice brings her locales vividly to life."
The stories that reflect the tenacity of the people who live in the contemporary West include "Ranch Girl" in which the protagonist is yearning to explore other territory, but also afraid to leave the security of home and all that is familiar. She is warned by a married friend to make a life of her own before settling down and having a family, but the narrator feels that domestic life wouldn't be so bad, in spite of the failed marriages that surround her. Jean Thompson wrote in the New York Times Book Review that "what works here is Meloy's ability to sketch within a few pages an entire world of cattle drives and cowboy brawls and lives truncated by carelessness or failed dreams. . . . Meloy's language is low-key and without pyrotechnics, a stripped-down prose that achieves its eloquence straightforwardly. . . . What gives the book its cohesiveness, and makes it a collection rather than a simple assemblage, are its unities, not only of place and style but of theme. When grouped together, several stories echo and reinforce one another."
In "Kite Whistler Aquamarine" a woman wakes on a twenty-below-zero morning to find her husband caring for a newborn foal in their living room. Seattle Times reviewer Ginny Merdes remarked that this story "underlines the resilience of the Western character despite nature's hard knocks." The thread that parallels the man's protection of the frostbitten animal is the wife's attempt, as a lawyer, to reunite a jailed client with her six-year-old daughter.
A reviewer for MostlyFiction.com called Meloy's stories "highly compressed, wound tight. They are driven by a powerful inner tension that grips and holds the reader securely in place as events play out as Greek tragedy. These are not action stories. Most have a dirge-like quality—slow, solemn, and mournful. Most involve death and loss."
"Four Lean Hounds, ca. 1976" is about two couples who are close friends, and the husbands who are business partners doing underwater welding off the coast of California. The tragedy here is the death of one while they are working on a job and the aftermath for the other.
San Francisco Chronicle contributor John Freeman commented that "there's something ominous stalking all of Meloy's Western tales, and the best ones use this looming sense of dread to reflect on the relationships they explore." Freeman felt the best story to be "Garrison Junction," in which a man and his pregnant girlfriend sit in a diner waiting for a mountain pass to be cleared after it is blocked by a fatal wreck involving a car and a tractor trailer truck. Meloy revisits the couple years later in another story in which they are married and have a teenage daughter, who herself is now threatened. Freeman noted that the smaller set of stories "is worldly and Jamesian in style; it globe-trots from Paris to the Mediterranean and back in time to war-torn London." One of these stories is Meloy's award-winning "Aqua Boulevard," about an elderly Parisian man who contemplates the end of life. "Red" finds a young soldier about to ship out to join World War II.
An Economist reviewer noted that Meloy writes "with flair and confidence, and a sure sense of dramatic timing (which usually means knowing exactly when to drop the bombshell)." A Kirkus Reviews writer felt that Meloy "may be at her best when writing about her native Montana, portraying the seamless blending of lifestyles in the gradual mingling of newcomers and natives."
Library Journal's Marcia Tager wrote that Meloy's stories "have a potent immediacy that makes them believable and heart-wrenching."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2003, review of Liars and Saints, p. 1580.
Economist, August 3, 2002, review of Half in Love.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2002, review of Half in Love, p. 604; April 15, 2003, review of Liars and Saints, p. 562.
Library Journal, August, 2002, Marcia Tager, review of Half in Love, p. 148; May 1, 2003, Reba Leiding, review of Liars and Saints, p. 156.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 7, 2002, Mark Rozzo, review of Half in Love, p. R13.
New York Times, May 19, 2003, Janet Maslin, "Family's Many Problems: Sketched in Few Words," p. E6.
New York Times Book Review, July 21, 2002, Jean Thompson, review of Half in Love, p. 5.
New York Times Magazine, May 11, 2003, Laura Miller, "Maile Meloy, Writer: An Author with Authority," p. 29.
Publishers Weekly, June 10, 2002, review of Half inLove, p. 39; April 28, 2003, review of Liars and Saints, p. 43.
San Francisco Chronicle, July 7, 2002, John Freeman, review of Half in Love.
Seattle Times, August 4, 2002, Ginny Merdes, review of Half in Love.
Washington Post Book World, August 18, 2002, Susan Adams, review of Half in Love, p. 10.
MostlyFiction.com,http://www.mostlyfiction.com/ (December 5, 2002), review of Half in Love.*