Nora Chassler was born in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1972, and grew up in New York City. She has an undergraduate degree in English from Hunter College, CUNY, in New York, and a Masters in Creative Writing from St Andrews. She has worked as a model and a social worker. She lives in Edinburgh.
Her first novel, Miss Thing, was published by Two Ravens Press in 2010. Her second, Grandmother Divided by Monkey Equals Outer Space, was published by Valley Press in 2015. A collection of ‘fragments, pensées and table-talk’ titled Madame Bildungsroman’s Optimistic Worldview followed in 2017, and an epic poem, The Minnow Would Be Lost, in October 2020.
New York City, 1982. The Martians – Carrie, Eli, their mother Viv and her teenage boyfriend, Arnie – live in a one- bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side. Viv smokes marijuana continually, laying out her bizarre version of reality to anyone who will listen. Eleven year-old Carrie’s budding OCD manifests in attention to detail at the expense of the big picture. Her angry older brother Eli just wants to make it to a showing of The Shining that isn’t sold out.
Around the corner – ‘above the smaller dry cleaners’ – the psychic Miss Rosa’s neon rose glows above the street. Keener on recounting the past than predicting the future, Miss Rosa (a.k.a. Phoebe Curtis) befriends the Martians one by one, and shares a part of her story with each of them – a story that resonates disturbingly with their own lives. But the Martians have other things to worry about: can Carrie afford a Red Devil costume for the Halloween parade? Who really has the longest fry? And how will Viv buy pot and pay the rent?
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In this collection of ‘fragments, pensées and table-talk’, Nora Chassler turns her attention to the great questions of contemporary life and literature, aided by a papier-mâché mannequin named Madame Bildungsroman. Together, they exclaim visions and visitations, proclamations and protestations, fierce one-liners and bittersweet memories; each offering a unique insight into the mind of one of our most original writers.
"Offers a brilliant perspective on existence through fragments and aperçus: ambiguous, acerbic, moving and searingly intelligent."
— Regi Claire
"There are very few books you wish to reread immediately upon finishing, but this was one for me. I highly recommend her other books as well. In a hundred years it’s possible having known Nora will be the other thing I am remembered for."
— Sean Ono Lennon (on Instagram)
Starting on Gilligan's island, with Aristotle clapping the 'fearless crew' 'in front of a live studio audience and from deep within it', Nora Chassler's book-length poem The Minnow Would Be Lost is a deeply imaginative, lyrical and personal journey through the lives of the author (inner, outer and otherwise), from Chicago to New York City, to Edinburgh, Prague, Moscow and beyond, to the edges of reality and the limits of the human experience.
Epic in every sense, this is a no-holds-barred work of literature that scolds, loves and damns its denizens in equal measure. Scathing and appreciative, nihilistic and hopeful, arch and vulnerable, this is the author's most original, ambitious, unforgettable achievement yet – one that ceaselessly communicates with our cultural history at all levels, whilst standing utterly alone amongst it.
Praise for Nora Chassler:
“Nora Chassler is the best writer you’ve never heard of.”
— Rónán Hession, The Irish Times
“There are very few books you wish to reread immediately upon finishing, but [Madame Bildungsroman] was one for me. I highly recommend her other books as well. In a hundred years having known Nora will be the other thing I am remembered for.”
— Sean Ono Lennon
“Nora Chassler’s extraordinary Grandmother Divided by Monkey Equals Outer Space breaks all moulds ... a triumphant vindication of the edgy, eccentric demotic as a compelling narrative voice.”
— William Boyd, The Guardian
“Offers a brilliant perspective on existence through fragments and aperçus: ambiguous, acerbic, moving and searingly intelligent.”
— Regi Claire
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