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Mother of Sorrows
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About the Author

Richard McCann's work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Tin House, and Ploughshares, and in many anthologies, including Best American Essays 2000. He is the author of Ghost Letters, a book of poems. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and from the Fulbright and Rockefeller Foundations. He lives in Washington, D.C., where he co-directs the graduate program in creative writing at American University.

Reviews

Though it is a work of fiction, this slim volume of interconnected stories a collection 18 years in the making by the codirector of the graduate program in creative writing at American University reads like a memoir; an unnamed first-person narrator leads the reader through meticulously constructed scenes from his past, musing on self, sexual identity and family dynamics. The earliest chapters are set in a suburb of Washington, D.C., in the 1950s. The narrator is a child, growing up gay in classic fashion, obsessed with his glamorous mother and chastised by his father for things like "cutting out Winnie Winkle fashion dolls from the Sunday funnies or designing elaborate ball gowns for my favorite movie stars." When he dresses in his mother's clothes with another boy, he is caught; a fishing expedition with his father is a failure. The narrator's transition into adulthood is hardly any easier: his father dies young; his brother, Davis, also gay, is arrested several times and eventually dies of a drug overdose. And in the final section, the narrator is revealed to have AIDS, a disease that has claimed the lives of many friends. McCann's calm, elegiac prose is lovely in descriptive passages, but turns stiff and self-conscious in the frequent explanations the narrator offers for his behavior and that of others. Still, McCann's graceful writing carries these bittersweet snapshots of a life plagued by self-doubt and yearning. Agent, Gail Hochman. (Apr. 26) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

With his father dead, an 11-year-old boy in sunny post- World War II America turns to his "mother of sorrows." Pantheon's big April push. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"Mother of Sorrows is almost unbearably beautiful. It is, purely and simply, the real thing -- a work of fiction so intricately felt, so magnificently written, that it can stand unembarrassed beside the mystery of life itself."-Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours

"Some of the cleanest, most elegant and unfussy prose I've read in ages. . . . [It] is, on one level, a gay coming-of-age narrative, and as such it ranks among the best. . . . But the ruling metaphors here are more universal: concealment and disclosure, assertion and invisibility." -James Marcus, Los Angeles Times Book Review "The voice in McCann's Mother of Sorrows is purely his own -- lyrical, melancholy, precise, refined." -Newsday "McCann holds such an exquisitely bright light over the landscape of 1950s suburban Maryland and the coming of age of his emotionally fragile, unnamed protagonist who appears in each interlocking story that the resulting book feels almost combustible. . . [His] prose is full of achingly sensual detail and imagery." -The Washington Post Book World

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