Elinor Lipman

Elinor Lipman was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1950 to avid readers whose idea of a good time was outings to the public library and to second-hand bookshops.

At university she wrote snappy headlines for the school newspaper, and essays (‘How to Be A Freshman’, ‘The Blind Date’) that were her first forays into social satire. Between 1972 and 1981 she worked real jobs, writing press releases for Boston’s public television station (later mined for The Ladies’ Man) and editing newsletters for various unglamorous organisations. She married Robert Austin, a college blind date, in 1975 (and would have taken his last name if she had known what was ahead, comedy-of-manners-wise.) At twenty-eight, she enrolled in an adult education creative writing course and began writing fiction with great trepidation – nights, weekends, and surreptitiously on her IBM Correcting Selectric at work.

Her first published story, Catering, appeared in Yankee Magazine in 1981. Into Love and Out Again, her first book, contained seven linked stories, which gave her the courage to try a novel. Then She Found Me was published in 1990 to more attention than she expected after a low-impact debut. The Way Men Act, Isabel’s Bed, The Inn at Lake Devine, The Ladies’ Man, and The Dearly Departed followed. The Pursuit of Alice Thrift was published in June 2003.

When pressed to characterise her work, she quotes an email from an editor, sent after 11 September 2001, saying, ‘I’ve been passing out copies of your books like aspirin, making new Lipman converts. So many of my friends are having trouble reading, feeling like they’ll never be light-hearted again. Among their many merits, your books are like a literary Red Cross.’

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