Redel, Victoria 1959-
Redel, Victoria 1959-
Born April 9, 1959, in New York, NY; daughter of Irving (in business) and Natalie (a ballet teacher) Redel; children: Jonah Redel-Traub, Gabriel Redel-Traub. Education: Dartmouth College, B.A., 1980; Columbia University, M.F.A., 1986.
Home—New York, NY.
Writer and writing instructor. Columbia University, New York, NY, Graduate School of the Arts, instructor; Vermont College, Montpelier, VT, Low Residency MFA program instructor.
Chester H. Jones Award, 1987, for poem "Some Crazy Dancing"; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1988, for poetry; Tom and Stan Wick First Book Award, Kent State University Press, 1995, for Already the World.
Already the World (poetry), Kent State University Press (Kent, OH), 1995.
Where the Road Bottoms Out (short stories), Knopf (New York, NY), 1995.
Loverboy (novel), Graywolf Press (St. Paul, MN), 2001, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2002.
Swoon, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2003.
The Border of Truth (novel), Counterpoint (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor of poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews to periodicals, including the Alaska Quarterly Review, Allure, Antioch Review, BOMB, Los Angeles Times, Missouri Review, Ohio Review, and Poetry East.
Victoria Redel began her writing career as a poet, completing her master's of fine arts in poetry from Columbia University in 1986. She started writing fiction after she gave birth to her first child. As Redel revealed to Joshua Harmon in the Valley Advocate: "I saw I could lose writing unless it became essential." She explained that short fiction is well suited to the needs of a mother—a person who needs to write in whatever short periods of time she can snatch from her other duties. Redel's collection of short stories, Where the Road Bottoms Out, and her collection of poetry, Already the World, were both published in 1995.
The short stories of Where the Road Bottoms Out connect to each other. They take place in a community with many Jewish refugees from all parts of the world. Children narrate some of the stories. In one story, an immigrant father cautions his American-born daughters against feeling too safe in their newfound culture. In another, a psychotic mother buries her children alive even though she loves them. Yet in a review of Where the Road Bottoms Out published in the Harvard Review, Rod Kessler stated that "to discuss what these stories are ‘about’ is to miss the point. Redel, in short, has moved the genre ahead a step and put us readers on our mettle to keep up." Susan Salter Reynolds lauded the collection in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, declaring: "When a writer loves language and can play with it right in front of you, something ecstatic happens." In the Valley Advocate, Harmon commented that "Where the Road Bottoms Out is a powerful debut, a book that enters new fictional territory and demands its readers follow."
Already the World contains poems of varying lengths in three different thematic sections. The first section focuses on sexual issues, and the problems and insecurities of young women coming of age. The collection's second part concerns itself with familial relationships and bereavement: the brother of a friend commits suicide, a man grieves the death of his wife. In the last portion of the collection, the poems center on the experiences of pregnancy and motherhood. A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded that in Already the World, Redel "fashions a mature, distinctive voice." Choice contributor J. Tharp observed that the poems in the final part are much more brief than verse in the rest of the volume, noting that their brevity "may reflect Redel's discovery that for new mothers time for writing is scarce and interrupted." Tharp hailed Already the World as "exciting," and Redel as "compelling."
Redel's first novel, Loverboy, is the story of a mother who is obsessed with her son, Paul. The mother's obsession is so all encompassing, obliterating whatever personality or individuality she might have had, that the reader never even learns her name—she is simply Paul's mother. The result of a one-night stand, Paul is his mother's entire life until he reaches that age when he begins striving for a measure of independence, going to school and making friends of his own, leaving her without her main focus. David Keymer, in a review for Library Journal, remarked that "Redel … writes like an angel about the darkest edge of obsession. This debut is simply excellent." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted: "Redel … makes it possible to empathize with the woman's overwhelming love for her son: the novel succeeds because the reader cannot condemn her."
The Border of Truth tells the story of a family's history during World War Two in a series of flashbacks when a woman must provide her family background in order to register with an adoption agency. Sara Leder's father has never liked talking about his past, and when Sara needs information in order to adopt, she discovers why. The basis for the book is the real-life refugee ship that was allowed to make port in Virginia in 1940 only long enough to refuel, before it was forced to continue on in order to find a place to unload its passengers who were fleeing Nazi persecution. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called the book "a welcome and fresh perspective on the well-trod subject of the Holocaust."
Redel tells her writing students: "Make a sentence that will stick to the page." According to Harmon, Redel takes her own advice to heart: "Her sentences and stories do more than stay on the page—they enter and resonate in the reader's mind."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Trillin, Calvin, Messages from My Father, Farrar, Straus, (New York, NY), 1996.
Choice, April, 1996, J. Tharp, review of Already the World, p. 1313.
Harvard Review, spring, 1996, Rod Kessler, review of Where the Road Bottoms Out.
Library Journal, May 15, 2001, David Keymer, review of Loverboy, p. 165.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 23, 1995, Susan Salter Reynolds, review of Where the Road Bottoms Out, p. 6.
Publishers Weekly, October 23, 1995, review of Already the World, p. 65; March 26, 2001, review of Loverboy, p. 61; December 11, 2006, review of The Border of Truth, p. 42.
Valley Advocate, June 16, 1995, Joshua Harmon, interview with Victoria Redel.