Profile: Jayne Anne Phillips

Professor

Faculty
Department of English, MFA in Creative Writing

 

Jayne Anne Phillips was born and raised in West Virginia. Her first book of stories, Black Tickets, published in 1979 when she was 26, won the prestigious Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction, awarded by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Featured in Newsweek, Black Tickets was pronounced "stories unlike any in our literature... a crooked beauty" by Raymond Carver and established Phillips as an writer "in love with the American language." She was praised by Nadine Gordimer as "the best short story writer since Eudora Welty" and Black Tickets has since become a classic of the short story genre. 

Jayne Anne Phillips' upcoming novel QUIET DELL (published by Scribner and available October 15, 2013) is based on a 1931 real-life multiple murder. Con man Harry Powers led a double life, and preyed on vulnerable widows he met through matrimonial agencies. He imprisoned and murdered an Illinois widow and her three children (ages 14, 12, and 9), and a Massachusetts divorcée, all of whom came to Quiet Dell willingly. The tragedy was one of the first nationally sensationalized crimes in America; the story preoccupied a rural town and the Depression-era nation for months. Jayne Anne boldly imagines the Illinois family’s last months of life, and gives us an indomitable heroine, Emily Thornhill, a Chicago reporter fascinated and compelled by the youngest of the children, and determined to see Powers convicted. Her relationship with the Chicago banker funding the investigation is as exhilarating as the crime is grim. Throughout the revelation of secrets both terrible and beautiful, Quiet Dell recounts the connections woven between us even in tragedy. A mesmerizing retelling of a harrowing true crime, QUIET DELL is a triumph. See the MFA Honors and Publications page for advance praise of QUIET DELL.

Jayne Anne Phillips' 2009 novel, Lark & Termite, praised as "an astounding feat of the imagination...the best novel I've read this year (Junot Diaz), "cut like a diamond, with such sharp authenticity and bursts of light, " (Alice Munro) and "so tender, so convincing, so penetrating, so incrediblly moving,...by far the best new novel I've read in the last five years" (Tim O'Brien) won the Heartland Prize for Fiction, and was a Finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critic's Circle Award, and the Prix de Medici Etranger.

Machine Dreams, Phillips' first novel, published in 1984, elegantly and astutely observes one American family from the turn of the century through the Vietnam War. A New York Times best seller, Machine Dreams was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and chosen by the New York Times Book Review as one of twelve Best Books of the Year.

Her next book of stories, Fast Lanes, (1987), praised in the LA times as "stories that hover on the edge of poetry," was reissued by Vintage and includes three previously uncollected stories.

Shelter, her 1994 novel, a haunting, suspenseful evocation of childhood rite-of-passage, was awarded an Academy Award in Literature by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and chosen one of the Best Books of the Year by Publishers Weekly.

MotherKind, “a compassionate and spiritually nourishing novel,”(PW) tells the stroy of Kate, whose care for her terminally ill mother coincidees with the birth of her first child and the early months of a young marriage. She must, iin a single year, come to terms with profound loss and radiante beginnings. Motherkind, which “explores the intuitive bond between mothers and daughters with unforced grace,” was nominated for the Orange Prize (UK).

Jayne Anne Phillips's works are published in ten languages.  She has taught at Harvard, Williams, Boston University, NYU, and Brandeis University.  Her honors include: two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, Fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Howard Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bunting Institute of Radcliff College, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Lark & Termite was chosen an '09 Best Book of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times (Michiko Kakutani, Ten Best Books of 2009, and Holiday Gift Books,15 Best Books of the Year),  the Los Angeles Times, Publisher’s Weekly, the Christian Science Monitor, the St-Louis Post Dispatch, the  Washington Post, The  Chicago Tribune, Barnes & Noble Review, and The Financial Times (UK).  She is the recipient of the Massachusetts Book Award and an Orange Prize Nomination (for MotherKind), an Academy Award In Literature from  The American Academy of Arts and Letters (for Shelter), a National Book Critics Circle nomination and inclusion in a NY Times '10 Best Books of the Year' (for Machine Dreams), and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction, awarded Black Tickets by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

Jayne Anne Phillips read in the Writers at Newark Reading Series with Barry Gifford on Tuesday, October 25, 2011, 5:30-7pm, Paul Robeson Gallery.

See her new website at www.jayneannephillips.com