Wild Life

Molly Gloss, Author Simon & Schuster $24 (256p) ISBN 978-0-684-86798-4
Gloss twines just enough intellectual fiber around the sleek cord of a great adventure story to offer up a truly satisfying read. Presented as the 1905 journal of the fictional dime novelist Charlotte Bridger Drummond, Gloss's third novel (after The Jump-Off Creek and The Dazzle of Day) tells the tale of a self-avowed feminist and Freethinker and her sojourn in the wilderness of Washington's Cascade mountains. Abandoned by her husband, Charlotte supports her five boys and her housekeeper, Melba, by churning out ""romantic tales of girl-heroes who are both brave and desirable."" When Melba's granddaughter goes missing in the woods, Charlotte sets out, as would her heroines, to join the search party. But after days of searching, Charlotte finds herself last, for weeks managing to survive only by insinuating herself into a family of ""apes or erect bears of immense size."" Knowingly, Gloss plays with one of our deepest fearsDlost in the wilderness, will we be saved?Dand the myths that have grown from it. Interleaved between Charlotte's notebook entries are passages she has clipped from journals (e.g., of Samuel Butler, Willa Cather, Oscar Wilde) and excerpts from her published and unpublished fiction. Inserted among these are brief scenesDportraits, reallyDthat could be construed as Charlotte's most serious attempts to write, or as Gloss telling us what Charlotte cannot. While Gloss generates heat and humor from the friction between early 20th-century and early 21st-century attitudes, her prose is most satisfying when she describes Charlotte's housekeeper ironing or Charlotte's patient suitor batting a homemade baseball. Deep into the book, Charlotte describes the ""lowbrow scientific romances"" she fancies: ""[M]y preference is for the writer whose language is gorgeous, whose characters are real as life, and whose stories take my poor little assumptions and give them back to me transformed."" Gloss couldn't have written a better description of her own novel: the writing is gorgeous, the characters real and vivid, and the story transforming. Agent, Wendy Weil. (June) FYI: Gloss received a 1996 Whiting Award, as well as the PEN Center West Fiction Prize.
Reviewed on: 05/29/2000
Release date: 06/01/2000
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 499 pages - 978-0-7862-2872-0
Prebound-Glued - 978-0-606-21734-7
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-618-13157-0
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-547-52640-9
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