Melissa Bank, author of ‘A Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing’ dies

Melissa Bank, who brought stinging humor, simple prose style and a distinct eye for human behavior into her literary explorations of love, loss, and family, particularly in the best-selling story collection A Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, “died August 2 at her home in East Hampton, New York. , on Long Island.She was 61 years old.

Her brother Andrew Bank said the cause was lung cancer.

A methodical writer who will constantly paraphrase her sentences and paragraphs, Ms. Punk has worked for nearly two decades on “A Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing” (1999) and “The Wonder Spot” (2005), linked short story collections focused on intelligent, quarrelsome young women looking for Love and creative gratification. Both books were widely acclaimed, even with some critics dismissing them as “a blazing chick”, a term that Mrs. Punk found “discrediting both readers and writers”.

“It’s as if these are books for chicks, about chicks and chicks, and what happens to one woman is the result of no one but herself or other women,” she told the Chicago Tribune in 2005.

Most of the seven stories in The Girls’ Guide are told by Jane Rosenthal, who grew up from an arrogant teen to a 35-year-old woman very similar to her literary author. Like Mrs. Punk, she worked in publishing and then advertising, was surviving breast cancer, had an affair with an older man (helpless alcoholic book editor for Jane; professor at Mrs. Punk) and had to contend with an untimely paternal death.

The character usually has one joke or line ready, including when her lover encouraged her to come work for him. “I can refer you to charges of that,” she replied, stating that he was guilty of “harassment at work in a sexual setting.” Other passages noted her loneliness in one sentence: “He kissed me on the cheek, as if he always did.”

Released a few years after the release of Helen Fielding’s best-selling novel, Bridget Jones’ Memoirs, “The Girls’ Guide” became a publishing phenomenon, auctioning for $275,000 — “a rarity for a novice, let alone a book of short stories,” The New York Times noted — and translated into more than 30 languages. The film’s title story was chosen by director Francis Ford Coppola, and two other stories were adapted into the 2007 film “Suburban Girl” starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alec Baldwin.

Book critics admired Mrs. Punk’s crystalline prose—Los Angeles Times reviewer Susan Salter Reynolds stated that she “writes like John Schaeffer, but more playful”—and many fans felt an intimate relationship with the author herself, seeing their own lives reflected in Jane’s romantic adventures. . During a tour of The Girls’ Guide, some readers asked Ms. Punk to write the book, To My Best Friend.

“In these situations, I always write, ‘I feel very close to you right now,'” she told The New York Times.

In a phone interview, her longtime editor Carol DeSanti noted that Ms. Bank Offering a “sort of radical honesty about emotional experience and love life,” writing about sex and romance while also examining the way relationships are affected by family, work, and popular culture dynamics. Her choice of subject means that DeSanti added that she was often overlooked as a prose designer, even when she was crafting sentences that were “absolutely easy to read.”

“That’s what makes it different,” she said. “Writing – language – got very, very close to the emotional experience. And when I did that, when I got it right, people just responded.”

Melissa Susan Bank, the second of three children, was born in Boston in 1960. Her date of birth could not immediately be confirmed. I grew up in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb that she described as a place “you were supposed to have a happy childhood, but you didn’t.”

Her mother, a former teacher who loves the language, kept the Random House dictionary uncut on an antique high chair, placing it outside the dining room for easy access. Her father was a neurologist and died of leukemia in his late fifties, having kept the disease a secret for nearly a decade, much to the astonishment of Ms. Bank.

“For a long time, I treated life as if it wasn’t real yet, that I was on guard. My father’s death made me realize that all of this mattered,” she told the New York Times.

After graduating in 1982 from Hobart and William Smith College in Geneva, New York, she worked in publishing in New York and went back to school, earning a master’s degree in creative writing from Cornell University in 1988. By then, she had begun writing “The Guide Girls”, which took 12 years to finish.

She supported herself by working for New York advertising agency McCann Ericson, writing copy for Stayfree Maxi Pads and Marriott Hotels. She said the job taught her the value of brevity. “You are a Hoover salesman who is knocking on the door. You better have something to say and say it well and in a persuasive way.”

When she won the Nelson Algren Prize for Short Literature in 1993, she felt her career was about to take off. But she was diagnosed with breast cancer the following year, and while cycling from radiotherapy in Manhattan, she was hit by a car. The accident left her with persistent post-concussion symptoms. For several months, she was unable to read and lost part of her vocabulary.

“For the first time since my diagnosis, I felt queasy and weak,” she recalled in a 2005 article in the Washington Post. “I felt like death tended to the kiss.”

Ms Punk recovered, but told the Guardian in 1999 that she had suffered from aphasia even before the accident, suffers from severe migraines and sometimes struggles to express herself. Once, while reading, I forgot the title of her book.

She spent five years writing her follow-up, “The Wonder Spot,” which spanned two decades in Sophie Applebaum’s life, with each chapter focusing on a different relationship in her life. New York Times writing critic Janet Maslin called it a “better honed and steady volume” than her first book, though sales lagged compared to it.

“I’m totally obsessed with it, and I’m obsessed with how no one has heard of it,” Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman wrote in 2020. She added, “In many ways, Punk is as much a fashion designer as he is [Edward] Saint Aubin, who always chooses the perfect word. But while it’s celebrated, she tends to get fired, because he’s a serious male writer who writes about child abuse and addiction, and a funny writer who writes about being single in New York. And that’s how this old chestnut goes.”

In addition to her brother, among the survivors is her partner of 18 years, Todd Dimston; Sister of Marjorie Bank.

Mrs. Punk has been working on another collection of stories in recent years, as well as teaching at Stony Brook University and a yearbook conference in Southampton, not far from the log cabins where she lived and wrote in East Hampton. (She also had a home in Manhattan.)

“She had this weird way of getting people to write, just in her own way. It was so soothing and so down-to-earth,” said author Matthew Clam, one of her colleagues at Stony Brook. “She was more than happy to tell you how difficult it was for her to write, In a way, he made people let their guard down and come up with new material in class.”

She noted that writing does not always come easy. But there were moments of surprise and joy When words and ideas meet. “There’s this feeling you get, that you can write a sentence and create something,” she told the Toronto Globe and Mail in 2005. There was a real opportunity for me to be more than I’ve always been.”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: