Ohlin, Alix 1972(?)-
Ohlin, Alix 1972(?)-
Born c. 1972, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Education: Harvard University, B.A.; Michener Center for Writers, Austin, TX. M.F.A., 2001.
Home—Easton, PA. Office—English Department, Lafayette College, Pardee Hall, Easton, PA 18042. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, educator. Portsmouth Abbey School, RI, former writer-in-residence; Lafayette College, Easton, PA, assistant professor of creative writing, 2004—.
Recipient of awards and fellowships from the Atlantic Monthly, the MacDowell Colony, Kenyon Review, Writers Workshop, the Sewanee Writers' Conference, and Yaddo.
The Missing Person (novel), Knopf (New York, NY), 2005.
Babylon and Other Stories, Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor of stories to One Story and Shenandoah, among others. Contributor to anthologies, including Best New American Voices 2004 and Best American Short Stories 2005.
Alix Ohlin's debut novel, The Missing Person, earned the fledgling author praise from critics and fellow writers alike. Ohlin, who was born in Montreal but regularly visited her mother in New Mexico during her youth, set her novel in Albuquerque. The protagonist, Lynn Fleming, has left the small-town feel of New Mexico to study art in New York. However, when her brother Wylie goes missing, she returns home to help search for him. Though she soon discovers his whereabouts and what he is doing (battling environmental issues), Lynn finds that other things about her past life are missing. Viewing her old life through new eyes, she begins to question all the assumptions she had about her artist father and her parents' failed marriage. Even Lynn's attempts to renew a close relationship with Wylie are put at risk by the deeds of his band of environmental protestors, with one of whom Lynn becomes romantically involved.
Reviewers on the whole responded warmly to this first novel. Booklist contributor Donna Seaman called The Missing Person a "mischievously smart and highly entertaining debut." A Kirkus Review critic was slightly less positive, terming the novel "well crafted if unsurprising." New York Times Book Review writer Sophie Harrison also had reservations. Noting that Ohlin is a "sensitive writer, alert to the look and feel of things, and to the comedies and contradictions of her characters' obsessions," Harrison nonetheless thought the author "portrays sensation rather than emotion," thus making her characters flat. However, a Publishers Weekly writer found the novel "a knowing and witty take on family ties, the politics of art and academia, and eco-terrorism," as well as "intelligent, insightful and often bitterly funny."
Ohlin followed up this novel in 2006 with a collection of shorter pieces, Babylon and Other Stories, a "lively first collection," according to Benjamin Anastas, writing in the New York Times Book Review. The seventeen tales are set in a variety of locales, from Montreal to New Mexico to New York, that reflect various stages in Ohlin's own life. As with her debut novel, these pieces deal with "themes of family and change," as Marta Segal Block noted in Booklist. The stories feature narrators who are "young, witty, sardonic, and usually female," according to Library Journal contributor Reba Leiding, and have, as a critic for Kirkus Reviews observed, an "understated tone." The same reviewer concluded: "Solidly constructed work that doesn't immediately wow." For a Publishers Weekly contributor, the tales "read like hopeless, tightly constructed variations on unhappiness." More impressed, however, Anastas found that this collection presents "a talented storyteller exploring the limits of her art."
Speaking with Jesslyn Roebuck on Identitytheory.com, Ohlin shared some of her thoughts on her choice of fiction over nonfiction: "I think fiction surrounds us. Stories are told to and by us all the time. We relate anecdotes to friends; we conceive our own lives as stories, believing that a certain chapter has drawn to a close or that we are the protagonist in a given tale; politicians frame events in narratives that cast certain characters as heroes and others as victims. Stories are the way we understand the world. Fiction writers are just maybe a bit more upfront about it, that's all."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 2005, Donna Seaman, review of The Missing Person, p. 1433; July 1, 2006, Marta Segal Block, review of Babylon and Other Stories, p. 32.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2005, review of The Missing Person, p. 143; June 15, 2006, review of Babylon and Other Stories, p. 598.
Library Journal, February 15, 2005, David A. Berona, review of The Missing Person, p. 120; August 1, 2006, Reba Leiding, review of Babylon and Other Stories, p. 79.
New York Times Book Review, May 22, 2005, Sophie Harrison, "Scent of a Plumber," review of The Missing Person, p. 14; August 6, 2006, Benjamin Anastas, "Love's Reckless Logic," review of Babylon and Other Stories.
Publishers Weekly, March 7, 2005, review of The Missing Person, p. 48; June 12, 2006, review of Babylon and Other Stories, p. 30.
Borzoi Reader,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (January 28, 2007), "Alix Ohlin."
Decatur Daily Online,http://www.decaturdaily.com/ (May 22, 2005), Kirsten Rohla, review of The Missing Person.
Identitytheory.com,http://www.identitytheory.com/ (July 31, 2006), Jesslyn Roebuck, "Alix Ohlin."
Lafayette College Web site,http://www.lafayette.edu/ (May 4, 2005), "English Professor Alix Ohlin Authors Acclaimed Debut Novel."
Michener Center for Writers Web site,http://www.utexas.edu/ (January 28, 2007), "MFA Profiles: Alix Ohlin."
Philadelphia Inquirer Online,http://www.philly.com/ (September 17, 2006), Carlin Romano, "Author Finds Place for Real Literary Life."
SFStation,http://www.sfstation.com/ (September 14, 2006), Lisa Ryers, review of Babylon and Other Stories.