Whiteford, Merry 1959-
WHITEFORD, Merry 1959-
Born 1959, in MA; daughter of Robert David Raymond (a naval officer) and Barbara Joan Nicholas (an advertising executive); married Jay McInerney (an author), 1984 (divorced, 1990); married Neil Whiteford (an executive and violinist), 1995. Education: Attended Vassar College; Syracuse University, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1981; University of Michigan, M.A., 1989. Politics: "I prefer a true one-person-one-vote, no-electoral-college democracy." Hobbies and other interests: Reading, weight-lifting, watching films, collecting antique postcards.
Writer. Instructor at Syracuse University, IBM at Syracuse University, Washtenaw Community College, and University of Michigan; freelance writer.
National Resource fellowship; Regents fellowship from University of Michigan; H. E. Francis short story award; first place, International Short Fiction Contest; first place, Pacific Northwest Writers Literary Contest; Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation grant.
If Wishes Were Horses, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2003.
AS MERRY MCINERNEY-WHITEFORD
Burning Down the House, Forge (New York, NY), 1994.
Dog People, Forge (New York, NY), 1998.
Coadapted Bright Lights, Big City for the screen.
WORK IN PROGRESS:
Short stories; two novels.
Merry Whiteford's first novel, Burning Down the House, loosely based on her former marriage to author Jay McInerney, is about the failing marriage of a woman whose husband finds sudden fame. The protagonist of her second novel, Dog People, is twelve-year-old Trisha Dalton, who lives in Salem, Massachusetts (Whiteford grew up on Boston's North Shore). The story begins in 1968, a time of upheaval, not just for the country, but for the entire Dalton household, as well. The title comes from Trisha's grandmother who held that there are two kinds of people: strong independent cat people, and weak and neglectful dog people. Unfortunately, Trisha's parents fall into the latter category.
Ongoing strain between her parents, fueled by his gambling addiction and their alcoholism, forces the family through tragedies large and small. The finale is chilling. Writing for Under the Covers Web site, Harriet Klausner noted, "Dog People is an excellent tale of a dysfunctional family spinning further into depravation and destruction.… Extremely well-written, the story line does not have a happy ending (rightfully so).… It is Trisha's child-like philosophy compared to a nation coming out of a child-like trance that makes this must reading for those who enjoy a relationship drama." Booklist 's Patty Engelmann called Dog People "a touching, beautifully written story of a child's struggle into adulthood in the face of tragic circumstances."
If Wishes Were Horses is set in 1974 in upstate New York and is another story about a harsh childhood. Star Hennessey and her brother, Lucky, become wards of the state when their mother, Mildred, an alcoholic prostitute, is arrested. From an early age, Star has used poetry as a retreat from her home life which was defined by her mother's bringing men (her "clients") home to their apartment, and then later, as a means of disappearing during the sexual abuse she herself endured. Ultimately it is her writing that gives her a chance at a real life.
A Kirkus Reviews contributor called If Wishes Were Horses "grim but moving," and "a strong, fresh, and vivid account of adolescence that doesn't sink into morbid sentimentality or hip despair."
"Merry Whiteford has opened doors we usually keep closed," stated Heather Froeschl for BookReview.com. "She offers a look at what makes people tick, and a look at the deepest darkest secrets that are often shut tight in little glass jars and held tightly to our chests." Froeschl called If Wishes Were Horses "a book that you won't soon forget, nor should you."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Ann Arbor News, July 20, 1998, Anne Valentine Martino, review of Dog People, pp. B1-2.
Booklist, May 15, 1998, Patty Engelmann, review of Dog People, p. 1597.
East Bay Bookshelf, October, 1994, Pat Katzmann, review of Burning Down the House.
Entertainment Weekly, September 23, 1994, Michael E. Ross, review of Burning Down the House, p. 65.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2002, review of If Wishes Were Horses, p. 1732.
Library Journal, June 1, 1998, Carol J. Bissett, review of Dog People, p. 154.
Philadelphia Main Line Welcomat, November 9, 1994, review of Burning Down the House, p. 14.
Publishers Weekly, May 11, 1998, review of Dog People, p. 51; February 17, 2003, review of If Wishes Were Horses, p. 56.
St. Paul Pioneer Press, August 16, 2000, review of Dog People.
Merry Whiteford Home Page,http://www.merrywhiteford.com (July 11, 2003).
Under the Covers,http://www.underthecovers.com/ (January 1, 2000), Harriet Klausner, review of Dog People.