Wagner, Erica 1967-
Wagner, Erica 1967-
Born September 24, 1967, in New York, NY; daughter of Arthur (a designer) and Ellen (a publicist) Wagner; married Francis Gilbert (a writer), January 23, 1993; children: Theodore Malcolm. Education: Cambridge University, B.A. (with honors), 1989; University of East Anglia, M.A., 1991.
Office—The Times, 1 Pennington Street, London E98 1TT, UK. E-mail—[email protected]
Journalist, freelance editor, researcher and book reviewer, 1992-95; London Times, London, England, assistant to literary editor, 1995-96, literary editor, 1996—. Judge, Man Booker Prize, 2002; also judge for Orange Prize, Whitbread First Novel Award, and Forward Prize. Member of Executive Committee, PEN; member, advisory committee, Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Reviewer, New York Times.
Gravity (stories), Granta (New York, NY), 1998.
Ariel's Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the Story of the Birthday Letters, Faber (London, UK), 2000.
Seizure (novel), Faber (London, UK), 2007.
Contributor of poetry to Times Literary Supplement and PN Review.
Since 1996, Erica Wagner has been the literary editor of the London Times—an unusual post for a New York native. She is also the author of a collection of short stories titled Gravity, and a study of the poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, based on Hughes's collection of poems about Plath, called Ariel's Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the Story of the Birthday Letters. Plath and Hughes had been married up to her suicide in 1963; Hughes, her literary executor, kept grimly silent about their relationship until the publication of the Birthday Letters shortly before his own death. The Birthday Letters were his version of their relationship. "Wagner," stated Library Journal contributor David Kirby, "alternates Hughes's almost diarylike poetry with the journal entries, letters, and poems by Plath that often describe the same people and events." "Eschewing easy theories and loose talk," Donna Seaman declared in Booklist, "Wagner seeks understanding of both poets through meticulous, deeply moving readings of their magnificent and haunting poems, thus setting much needed standards for future discussion." "In Wagner's own no-nonsense phrasing," opined a Publishers Weekly contributor, "her superb study ‘is an attempt to open up this dialogue between two people—both now dead—and make [it] … more accessible to the general reader.’"
In Seizure, Wagner's first novel, she traces the story of Janet Ward, a city planner working in London with a seemingly normal life—except for recurrent seizures, which troubled her in her childhood and have recently returned. A call from her solicitor reveals that the mother she thought had been killed decades ago in a traffic accident in fact had died only weeks before, making Janet owner of a small cottage in the north of England. "Janet can remember nothing of her mother and knows only what her father has told her: that her mother left the house and was run over by a drunk driver," explained Diane Scharper in the Weekly Standard. "After she died, her bereft husband raised Janet, their only child who, like her mother, was a dark-haired beauty. A doting father, he reminisced about his wife, telling Janet supposedly true stories about how they met, how they spent the early days of their marriage, and how much they loved their daughter."
When Janet travels to visit her new home, however, she discovers that it is already occupied by a fair-haired stranger named Tom. Soon romantic sparks begin to flare between the two, despite the fact—as Janet comes to suspect—that they are brother and sister. "Reality and fantasy are sinuously entangled in this passionate novel told in flashbacks, stories from and about the mother who abandoned Janet and Tom (they are half-siblings). The author draws lavishly on Celtic myth," Mary Flanagan wrote in the Independent, "appropriating its sublime lyricism, numinous landscape and awful doom: the devil's ship, the seal woman, the demon who must be clutched by his lover, through frightful metamorphoses, to free him from the thrall of the fairy queen." "Wagner seems to have aimed at the territory of [Ian McEwan's] The Cement Garden and The Comfort of Strangers," wrote Olivia Glazebrook in the Spectator. She further stated that in the book, "Something shocking happens to someone apparently normal; there's weirdness under the duvet; the fixtures of a real life are forgotten; bizarre and unexpected behaviour goes unchecked." "Wagner's clean, sturdy prose imparts an inevitability to what is taboo," a Kirkus Reviews contributor declared, "but some gratuitous mystification prevents a complete surrender to her spell."
Erica Wagner told CA: "I write because I have no choice. I have always written, or so it seems; it is what I know how to do and it is what I love best. Everything is an influence: all I see and all I do flows into my writing. Nothing is real until it is put into words. I read fiction, history, science: the world around me thrills me and makes me want to transform it, to see it clearly through my writing. Writing is a lens: skill and practice bring me more into focus. The short stories in Gravity range widely and so reflect my interests."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 2001, Donna Seaman, review of Ariel's Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the Story of the Birthday Letters, p. 1348; March 1, 2007, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Seizure, p. 65.
Bookseller, March 30, 2007, review of Seizure, p. 12.
English Studies, August, 1999, L.R. Leavis, review of Gravity, p. 307.
Guardian, May 19, 2007, Alfred Hickling, "Love's Wilder Shore."
Independent, April 20, 2007, Mary Flanagan, "Seizure."
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2007, review of Seizure, p. 193.
Library Journal, March 15, 2001, David Kirby, review of Ariel's Gift, p. 83; April 15, 2007, Sarah Conrad Weisman, review of Seizure, p. 77.
New Scientist, January 3, 1998, review of Gravity, p. 42.
New Statesman, November 21, 1997, review of Gravity, p. 51; April 9, 2007, "Enchanted Tales," p. 60.
New York Times Book Review, April 8, 2007, "Rapture," p. 6.
Publishers Weekly, March 19, 2001, review of Ariel's Gift, p. 86; February 26, 2007, review of Seizure, p. 57.
Reference & Research Book News, August, 2001, review of Ariel's Gift, p. 240.
Spectator, November 8, 1997, Kate Hubbard, review of Gravity, p. 54; April 7, 2007, "Wonders Never Cease."
Times Literary Supplement, November 7, 1997, review of Gravity, p. 28; March 31, 2000, Elaine Feinstein, review of Ariel's Gift, p. 25; April 6, 2007, "Your Face in the Mirror," p. 22.
Tribune Books, June 24, 2001, review of Ariel's Gift, p. 3.
Weekly Standard, July 16, 2007, "Death and the Maiden; a ‘Wuthering Heights’ Set in Cool Britannia."
Erica Wagner Web site,http://www.ericawagner.co.uk (December 16, 2007), author biography.