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Gail Pool

A Biographical Note

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I was born in New York City, attended Little Red School House and Hunter College High School, and concentrated in Classics at Harvard.  I have an MA in Creative Writing and an MLS.  My husband, Jeremy, and I lived in London, New Guinea, and San Francisco before settling, with our son, in Brookline, Massachusetts.  We now live in Cambridge, where for many years I taught Writing for Publication at the Radcliffe Seminars, and we spend part of the year in Sanibel, Florida.  I am a member of the Authors Guild, the National Book Critics Circle, and the National Writers Union.  I am also a member of LibraryThing, and for those who enjoy browsing other people’s libraries, the catalog of my books (still in-progress, but so far around 4000-volumes-long) is available online.

 

I’ve been involved in literary journalism for three decades—as a magazine editor, a review editor, a critic, a columnist, and a freelance journalist.  For four years, I was editor of Boston Review, and for more than ten years, I was books editor of the Radcliffe Quarterly.  I’ve been a book columnist for the Christian Science Monitor, where I reviewed travel literature; for Wilson Library Bulletin, a trade magazine, where I wrote a column on magazines, created and edited a book review section, and later reviewed mysteries; and for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where I wrote a column on first fiction that also appeared regularly in the Houston Post and the San Diego Union-Tribune, and sometimes in the St. Petersburg Times and the Kansas City Star.  My articles and essays have appeared in such publications as Columbia Journalism Review and the New York Times, and I have written about reviewing for the Women’s Review of Books, Boston Review, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.  My article on women on the book page—as reviewers and authors—appeared in the March/April 2008 issue of the Women’s Review of Books.  In April 2010 I participated in a roundtable at Northeast MLA whereI spoke about Book Reviewing Then and Now: An Overview. 

 

Faint Praise: The Plight of Book Reviewing in America—which was published in 2007 and is still the only in-depth analysis of book reviewing in this country—is the second book I have published with the University of Missouri Press.  My first book, Other People’s Mail: An Anthology of Letter Stories, was published in 2000.  There’s been lively interest in epistolary fiction these days, and I think that many people interested in storytelling will share my fascination with these unusual stories by such writers as Alice Munro, Nadine Gordimer, Julio Cortazar, Tadeusz Borowski, Doris Lessing, Torgny Lindgren, and Gail Godwin.

 

My new work, Lost Among the Baining: Adventure, Marriage, and Other Fieldwork, is a travel memoir that has just been published by UMP (June 2015). In 1969 Jeremy and I spent 16 months in New Guinea, living in two remote villages with the Baining.  The trip was a fiasco: we couldn’t make sense of this enigmatic people’s lives.  Our return to the States was an extended disorientation: we couldn’t make sense of our own lives.  Indeed, it took 40 years—and a return to New Guinea—to lay this ghost to rest.

 

Lost Among the Baining looks back with wry humor on this journey to the bush.  It follows our intense months in the jungle, living with a people whose extremely different culture seems to undermine our own.  The narrative moves briskly through the years back home, where I struggle to frame this experience that comes between us and yet binds us together as aliens in our own world.  And the story concludes with our return to New Guinea and our reunion with the people who had so upended our lives—a redemptive voyage that brings our journey to a close.

 

For a glimpse of my New Guinea experience, please take a look at the travel essay I wrote for the New York Times.  They called it “Defensive Reading,” but I prefer my own title: “Jungle Books.” For a fuller look at Lost Among the Baining, visit my Authors Guild website and the book’s Facebook page. 

 

For more information about my work, please visit my web page at Publishers Marketplace, my website for Other People's Mail, and my website at the Authors Guild, where I have started a blog, TraveLit, which reviews travel classics.  These books—mostly little-known, and all worth knowing—are about travel in all its forms, from exploration to tourism.  The blog also offers entertaining travel quotations and book recommendations from readers.