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Hortense Calisher

Hortense Calisher

Calisher, Hortense, 1911-2009, American author, b. New York City, grad. Barnard College, 1932. Her novels are difficult to categorize, blending deft character analysis with complex story lines. Written in careful, dense, elliptial, yet constantly fresh prose, they have been compared to works by Dickens and James. She frequently wrote about families and the failures of love and communication that wind through their generations. Among her novels are False Entry (1961), The New Yorkers (1969), Queenie (1971), Mysteries of Motion (1982), In the Palace of the Movie King (1993), and Sunday Jews (2002). In all, Calisher wrote more than 20 books. Her collected short stories appeared in 1975 (another story collection followed a decade later), and her collected novellas were published in 1997. She taught at several colleges and universities.

See her autobiographical Herself (1972), Kissing Cousins (1988), and Tattoo for a Slave (2004); K. Snodgrass, The Fiction of Hortense Calisher (1993).

Hortense Calisher (born December 20, 1911 in New York City, NY) is an American writer of fiction.


A graduate of Hunter College High School (1928) and Barnard College (1932), Calisher was the daughter of a young German immigrant and an older father from a Southern family she described as "volcanic to meditative to fruitfully dull, and bound to produce someone interested in character, society, and time" .

Writing style

Calisher involves her closely investigated, penetrating characters in complicated plotlines that unfold with shocks and surprises in allusive, nuanced language with a distinctively elegiac voice, sometimes compared with Eudora Welty, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Henry James. Critics generally consider Calisher a type of neo-realist and often both condemn and praise for her extensive explorations of characters and their social worlds. She was definitely at odds with the prevailing writing style of minimalism that characterized fiction writing in the 1970s and 1980s and that emphasized a sparse, non-romantic style with no room for expressionism or romanticism. As an anti-minimalist, Calisher is admired for her elliptical style in which more is hinted at than stated, and she is also praised as a social realist and critic in the vein of Honore Balzac and Edith Wharton.

Honors and awards

A past president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and of PEN, the worldwide association of writers, she has been a National Book Award finalist three times and has won an O. Henry Award (for "The Night Club in the Woods") and the 1986 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize (for The Bobby Soxer) as well as being awarded Guggenheim Fellowships in 1952 and 1955 . She lives in New York City.



  • In the Absence of Angels (1951)
  • False Entry (1961)
  • Tales for the Mirror (1962)
  • Textures of Life, (1963)
  • Extreme Magic (1964)
  • Journey from Ellipsia (1966)
  • The Railway Police, and The Last Trolley Ride (1966)
  • The New Yorkers (1970)
  • Standard Dreaming (1972)
  • Eagle Eye (1973)
  • Queenie (1973)
  • The Collected Stories of Hortense Calisher (1975)
  • On Keeping Women (1977)
  • Mysteries of Motion (1983)
  • Saratoga Hot (1985)
  • The Bobby-Soxer (1986)
  • Age (1987)
  • Kissing Cousins: A Memory (1988)
  • The Small Bang (under the pseudonym of Jack Fenno) (1992)
  • In the Palace of the Movie King (1993)
  • In the Slammer with Carol Smith (1997)
  • The Novellas of Hortense Calisher (1997)
  • Sunday Jews (2003)



External links

Hortense Calisher's website

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