We are sad to hear that Top Ten contributor Melissa Bank died of lung cancer on Aug. 2 at the age of 61.
Melissa is best known for her bestselling book of linked short stories, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing (1999), which featured a common main character, Jane Rosenthal, who was very similar to Bank. As Simon Hattenstone observed in a profile of Bank for the Guardian, “Jane and Bank were both born in Philadelphia and live in New York, they share a neurologist father who died of leukemia in his late 50s, a background in publishing, an older lover with a history of drunkenness and diabetes.”
When Hattenstone asked her why it took 12 years to produce a relatively slim volume, Bank explained, “I did about a million rewrites. The more I knew Jane the more I'd go back and throw out a story or do a new story about when she was younger. I think it was because I was getting older and understood things differently.”
What she didn’t say was that had been in a horrific bicycle accident which damaged her short-term memory and made it difficult at times to summon the right words. It makes her book even more of an achievement.
Melissa second and final book, The Wonder Spot (2005) is a poignant, sharply funny story collection that focuses on Sophie Applebaum, the black sheep of her family trying to blend in with the herd. Over the course of 25n years, these stories chart Sophie's quest for her own identity—who she is, what she loves, whom she loves, and occasionally whom she feels others should love. In an often-disappointing world, Sophie listens closely to her own heart. And when she experiences her 'Aha!' moments—her own personal wonder spots—it's the real thing.
No doubt, many readers felt just that reading Melissa works. She is gone, but she lives on.
- Read the New York Times obituary
- Read a 1999 New York Times profile of Melissa
- Read a Book Club Guide to the Girls’ Guide
- Watch a 2011 interview with her
Melissa Bank’s Top Ten List
1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877).
2. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955).
3. The stories of Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961).
4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck (1952).
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925).
6. The stories of Raymond Carver (1938–88).
7. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871–72).
8. Washington Square by Henry James (1880).
9. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989).
10. Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger (1953).