PERSONAL: Married; children: one son. Education: Graduated from Marquette University.
ADDRESSES: Home—Chicago, IL Agent—c/o Author Mail, Three Rivers Press, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
CAREER: Journalist and novelist. Lumpen (zine), Chicago, IL, founder and editor, 1992–98.
Fat Bald Jeff, Grove Press (New York, NY), 2001.
The Easy Hour, Three Rivers Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Unimaginable Zero Summer, Three Rivers Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor of short fiction to periodicals, including Mississippi Review, Adirondack Review, Bust, and Easy Listener, and to anthology Book of Zines, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1997.
SIDELIGHTS: Writer Leslie Stella was raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and attended Marquette University before moving to Chicago and starting the zine, Lumpen for which she served as editor and copublisher. The magazine was issued once or twice a year between 1992 and 1998, and focused on culture and political commentary. Stella then moved on to writing novels, starting with Fat Bald Jeff, is a humorous look at job dissatisfaction and the struggle to find one's place in the world. Heroine Addie Prewett is the product of wealthy grandparents and drop-out, hippie parents, and her greatest wish is to find the perfect life, complete with house, garden, and a servant. Instead she shares a plain apartment and works as an underpaid copy editor at the fictional National Association of Libraries. Michael Cart, in a review for the San Francisco Chronicle, remarked that "Addie has an often-askew take on reality, but her misinterpretations are as comically transparent to readers as a freshly washed window," and concluded that "there are so many funny lines … that even librarians may like it." Danise Hoover, reviewing the novel in Booklist, commented that, "although as subtle as a sledgehammer, this is a fun, harmless, and quick read." A contributor for OnMilwaukee.com wrote of the book: "fresh, fast-paced and laugh-out-loud funny, it marks Stella as an author to watch."
Stella's follow-up book, The Easy Hour, returns to the theme of the workplace. The novel recounts the story of Lisa Galisa, who works at a Chicago store selling sportswear to fisherman, and is desperate to change her lot in life. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly wrote that "this sparkling novel probes the humiliations and class divisions of the workplace with intelligence and wit." A contributor for Kirkus Reviews called the book "a good-natured comedy about social climbing as a nice girl from Chicago's South Side gets taken up by the glitterati," concluding that it was "a pleasant take on the vanity of human wishes: well conceived, nicely wrapped up." Amanda Taylor, in a review for USA Today.com, remarked that "wacky plot twists peppered with witty dialogue keep the story entertaining. There's never a dull moment."
In Unimaginable Zero Summer Stella introduces Verity Presti, an overweight young woman who loves thrift stores and crocheted beer hats, and who is distressed at the approach of her fifteen-year high school reunion. Stella follows Verity as she tries to take stock of her life, and eventually reveals to the reader the truth behind Verity's unhappiness. Katie Haegele, in a review for the Philadelphia Inquirer, remarked that "Stella's novel is about a lot of things—grief, growing older, fear of failure, Scandinavian death metal, and getting over it, whatever it happens to be. But it's also a moving portrait of the squirrelly ways we all have of dealing with those things." A contributor for Kirkus Reviews called the book "a comforting if sometimes cartoonish riff on Gen-X lives."
Stella is also the author of a number of short stories. Her fiction has appeared in such publications as the Mississippi Review, Adirondack Review, and Easy Listener, and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2004.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 2001, Danise Hoover, review of Fat Bald Jeff, p. 1041.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2003, review of The Easy Hour, p. 344; February 15, 2005, review of Unimaginable Zero Summer, p. 196.
Publishers Weekly, February 26, 2001, review of Fat Bald Jeff, p. 58; January 27, 2003, review of The Easy Hour, p. 233.
Adirondack Online, http://adirondackreview.homestead.com/ (July 12, 2005), "Leslie Stella."
Leslie Stella Home Page, http://www.lesliestella.com (July 12, 2005).
OnMilwaukee.com, http://www.onmilwaukee.com/ (July 12, 2005), "Leslie Stella."
Philadelphia Inquirer Online, http://www.macon.com/ (July 12, 2005), "Leslie Stella."
USA Today Online, http://www.usatoday.com/ (July 12, 2005), "Leslie Stella."