1996 Notable Authors

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Lorrie Moore
Craig Rice
George Shannon

Lorrie Moore, 1957-

Wordplay can never be considered the lowest form of humor to anyone who has read and appreciated work by Lorrie Moore, who has consistently delighted and challenged readers with her witty dialogue, deft character portrayal, and outrageous storytelling. Moore's invented people are serious, but not solemn, witty, yet not silly, and worldly, but not always wise. There is a discernible evolution from her earlier, more overtly humorous Self Help, and Anagrams, through the more developed Like Life and Who Will Run Frog Hospital?, but Moore has never lost her sense of fun and spirit of fair and unfair play. To read her is to read for delight.

Marie Lorena (Lorrie) Moore was born in Glen Falls, New York and educated at St. Lawrence University (B.A., Summa Cum Laude) and Cornell University (M.F.A.). She now teaches in the University of Wisconsin-Madison's English Department.

Some of Moore's stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories and in Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. She was given a WLA Outstanding Achievement Recognition Award for Self Help.

In a chapter entitled "Anguish as a Second Language" (borrowed from Moore's Anagrams) in his book Talents and Technicians, critic Robert W. Aldridge writes: "Moore remains one of the most sensitive and articulate chroniclers of what it feels like to be alive and overly vulnerable to life in these final somber years of the twentieth century." Lorrie Moore will be writing books well into the next century, amusing, amazing and edifying readers with her doldrums-defying wit and characterizations.

Selected Writings:

Self Help: Stories, 1985
Anagrams: A Novel, 1986
The Forgotten Helper: A Story for Children, 1987
Like Life: Stories, 1990
Who Will Run Frog Hospital?, 1994

Edited Work:
I Know Some Things: Stories About Childhood by Contemporary Writers, 1992

Craig Rice, 1908-1957

In 1946, when she made the cover of Time Magazine, the first woman writer of mystery fiction to do so, Craig Rice was at the peak of her career. Her achievements included paperback book sales to rival Agatha Christie, successful screenplays, a ghostwritten bestseller for Gypsy Rose Lee, a regular review column on mystery fiction for a Chicago newspaper, a whirlwind social life, and a fan letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She was the first female practitioner of the screwball hard-boiled school of mystery fiction and her books besides being gems of witty dialog and madcap plotting, helped pave the way for other women writers in a male-dominated genre.

Her books, especially the series featuring J.J. Malone and Jake and Helen Justus, were popular because they provided escape from the grim realities of the Depression and World War II. Set in Chicago, they depict a world of hard drinking and smoking without the consequences, of nightclubs and ready money, of gangsters more lovable than vicious. Titles such as The Big Midget Murders, Having Wonderful Crime, and The Lucky Stiff give some indication of the content and style. (The exception is Trial by Fury, considered her best work, which is set in a Wisconsin town, patterned after Fort Atkinson, and provided a view of small town life as only one who lived it could write.)

The author's personal life was a different story. Craig Rice is a pen name. She acquired many names through her five marriages, but she was born Georgiana Anne Randolph in Chicago in 1908. Her parents almost immediately left her with her paternal aunt and uncle, Nan and Elmo Rice in Fort Atkinson and headed for Europe. Although she was raised lovingly by the Rices, she did not recover from the pain of abandonment. Furthermore, as an adult she suffered from alcoholism and manic depressive syndrome. After the 1946 peak, she all but stopped writing and began a downward spiral of failed marriages, suicide attempts, and hospitalizations for alcoholism and domestic violence. In 1957, she was found dead from a fall down the stairs at her home in California where she lived alone. She was 49.

Selected Writings: (the J.J. Malone Series)

8 Faces at 3, 1939
The Corpse Steps Out, 1940
The Wrong Murder, 1940
The Right Murder, 1941
Trial by Fury, 1941
The Big Midget Murders, 1942
Having Wonderful Crime, 1943
The Lucky Stiff, 1945
My Kingdom for a Hearse, 1957

George Shannon, 1952-

Variety is definitely a word that applies to George Shannon, both in his career background and in his writing, which is unusually broad in range. Shannon's work provides something for readers of all ages, including picture books, easy readers, folklore, and a young adult novel, as well as scholarly biography and bibliography.

A Kansas native, Shannon attended the University of Kentucky prior to moving to Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Shannon's background as a children's librarian and as a storyteller is clearly evident in his writing. An important focus of Shannon's writing is his attention to "acknowledging the links" between the oral storytelling tradition and written versions of folklore. In his thought-provoking "Stories to Solve" series, he provides extensive notes to document the origin of these story puzzles. The oral tradition is extremely important to Shannon, who says, "I want my stories to sound as if they were being told out loud." This skill with language is clearly evident in his children's picture books, such as April Showers, Lizard's Song, and Climbing Kansas Mountains, where the lyrical quality of his words is akin to poetry.

In addition to his children's books, Shannon's scholarly writings represent an important contribution to the world of children's literature. Storytelling: A Selected Annotated Bibliography is considered to be the basic reference tool for professional storytellers, and the biography, Arnold Lobel, is the definitive resource on that author.

George Shannon's writing creates endless links to the world of folklore and storytelling traditions. His broad range of work enhances the world of children's literature and promotes the continued sharing of these traditions with future generations.

Selected Writings:

Picture Books

The Gang and Mrs. Higgins, 1981
The Piney Woods Peddler, 1981
Spring: a Haiku Story, 1996
Tomorrow's Alphabet, 1995

Stories to Solve: Folktales from Around the World, (series) 1985

Fiction-Young Adult
Unlived Affections, 1989


Folk Literature and Children: An Annotated Bibliography of Secondary Materials,
Humpty Dumpty: A Pictorial History
, 1981
A Knock at the Door: 35 Ethnic Versions of a Tale, 1992

Journal Articles
"Goffstein and Friends". Horn Book. February, 1983.
"Acknowledging the Links". School Library Journal. January, 1980