March 18, 2013

Elisa Albert & Rebecca Wolff, March 15

This reading was presented by the College of St. Rose MFA Program in Creative Writing, at the new Huether Hall on the ever-expanding St. Rose campus.

Rebecca Wolff is a familiar face/voice in this area as the editor of Fence Magazine, housed at the NYS Writers Institute at the University at Albany. She read a late chapter ("Late November") from her novel The Beginners (Riverhead, 2011) with the ongoing monologue of a most-annoying character, real or not. She also read a selection of her short, spare poems from her collection, The King (W.W. Norton, 2009), described by one critic as "poems about motherhood."

Elisa Albert is the MFA visiting writer. She read a series of short segments from her new novel currently "in the publishing pipeline" (as she said), "The Fourth Trimester." What the chunks she read were about were the trials & tribulations of being a mother of a new baby, meanwhile building/rehabbing a house with an indifferent husband, with a bit of hero worship of a poet/punk-rocker thrown in for spice.

There was an informative, thoughtful discussion afterwards about the "literature of Motherhood" with references to the late-19th century short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Ironically the pieces read today (with the exception of the poetry), while dealing with marriage & child-rearing from the women's point of view in the 21st century, sounded a lot like the tone, the strutting, of mid-20th century male-dominated novels like the work of John Updike or John Cheever. But then, what do I know, I'm a poet?

In any event, hearing these current, young novelists I was reminded of another mid-century women novelist, Doris Grumbach, who taught at the College of St. Rose, & wrote what I recall was a roman √† clef about the school, The Spoil of the Flowers (Doubleday, 1962), back when St. Rose was an all-girls Catholic teaching college. I think it's out-of-print -- sic transit gloria mundi, etc., etc.

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