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Hortense Calisher Biography

(1911– ), In the Absence of Angels, Collected Stories, Saratoga, Hot, False Entry, The New Yorkers

short life york provincial

American novelist and short-story writer, born in New York, educated at Hunter College. Calisher is widely held to be a more skilful writer of short fiction than of novels, but she has continued to experiment with both genres. Her short stories, collected in In the Absence of Angels (1953), Collected Stories (1975), Saratoga, Hot (1985), and other volumes, show a talent for the humorously absurd and present a gallery of stock characters which increase their appeal. Her first novel, False Entry (1962), the chronicle of a man's life from childhood to maturity, which ranges from England to the American South and New York City, was praised for its robust narrative and its elegantly lyrical prose; the sequel, The New Yorkers (1969), which rivals the earlier volume in style and length, is perhaps her best-known novel. Though Calisher's scenes of provincial life, drawing on her family background, and her New York portraits have earned her the highest praise, she has resolutely refused to be categorized and continues to seek for new, and often surrealistic, subject matter. Journal from Ellipsia (1965) and Mysteries of Motion (1983) are set in outer space; Queenie (1971) is a satire of contemporary sexual mores; Standard Dreaming (1972) figures a surgeon speculating on the uncertain future of mankind; and The Bobby Soxer (1986) is a tale of provincial life in the 1950s. Herself (1972) and Kissing Cousins (1988) are autobiographical works.

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