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Almost Famous Women: Stories (Hardcover)
January 2015 Indie Next List
“Bergman's latest collection of short stories is simply spectacular. In the tradition of her award-winning first collection, Birds of a Lesser Paradise, Bergman has given readers tales filled with achingly real, exquisitely crafted characters who seem to leap off the page. Beautifully told, the stories provide intimate snapshots of unique, lesser-known women in history, each facing life's challenges head on -- poverty and prejudice, hardship and sacrifice -- bravely charging forward without looking back.”
— Anderson McKean, Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL
From the acclaimed author of Birds of a Lesser Paradise, a dazzling new collection that explores the lives of unforgettable women in history.
The fascinating characters in Megan Mayhew Bergman’s new stories are defined by their creative impulses, fierce independence, and sometimes reckless decisions. In “The Siege at Whale Cay,” cross-dressing Standard Oil heiress Joe Carstairs seduces Marlene Dietrich. In “A High-Grade Bitch Sits Down for Lunch,” aviator and writer Beryl Markham lives alone in Nairobi and engages in a battle of wills with a stallion. In “Hell-Diving Women,” the first integrated, all-girl swing band sparks a violent reaction in North Carolina.
Other heroines, born in proximity to the spotlight, struggle to distinguish themselves: Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter, Allegra; Oscar Wilde’s wild niece, Dolly; Edna St. Vincent Millay’s talented sister, Norma; James Joyce’s daughter, Lucia.
Almost Famous Women offers and elegant and intimate look at artists who desired recognition. The world wasn’t always kind to the women who star in these stories, but through Mayhew Bergman’s stunning imagination, they receive the attention they deserve.
About the Author
Megan Mayhew Bergman is the author of Almost Famous Women, Birds of a Lesser Paradise, and Nightingale Lane. She is a regular columnist for The Guardian, and her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Best American Short Stories, The Paris Review, The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, and Oxford American, among other publications. She was a fellow at the American Library in Paris and now directs Middlebury’s Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference. She lives in Vermont.
"Every one of these stories is as vibrant, as urgent, as surprising as the women therein. What a thrill to listen as they cohere into a chorus of powerful, affecting and often hilarious voices, each unforgettable, together undeniable. Another stunning collection from the brilliant Megan Mayhew Bergman."
— --Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Battleborn
“Almost Famous Women is sharp, compassionate, and strong, just like the women depicted in its pages. Megan Mayhew Bergman writes with such precision that we should all quake in her presence. This book only looks like it's made of paper-- you are holding priceless diamonds in your hand.”
— --Emma Straub, author of The Vacationers
“Megan Mayhew Bergman writes with an astonishing force of empathy, a compassion as bright and illuminating as a klieg light. The reader of Almost Famous Women can't help but be seduced by these eccentric, subversive, passionate women who lived their lives with their entire souls and who were furiously unapologetic for doing so.”
— --Lauren Groff, author of Arcadia
“Lovely and heartbreaking.”
— Anjelica Huston, author of Watch Me
“Megan Mayhew Bergman breathes life into lives that men and history have cast aside. It is rare that an author is as fearless as her characters. Bergman is, and Almost Famous Women is a stunning feat of great daring.”
— Lily King, author of Euphoria
"Megan Mayhew Bergman is a tremendous writer -- compassionate and intelligent, generous and funny -- and Almost Famous Women is a collection filled with empathy, insight and extraordinary psychological precision. Mayhew Bergman has made the women who inhabit this beautiful book come fully to life -- I won't ever forget them."
— Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans
"A collection of stories as beautiful and strange as the women who inspired them."
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Rough-cut gems of a bygone era."
— O, The Oprah Magazine
“In these inventive short stories, off-the-radar historical characters—a motorbike racer, a diva, Oscar Wilde’s niece—enter the limelight at last.”
— MORE Magazine
"Gutsy and expertly written."
"Fearless stories star[ring] an eccentric cavalcade."
— Vanity Fair
"Gives us the best of what short fiction offers: a glimpse of intriguing characters, told in unique and varied voices, set in pivotal snatches of their fascinating lives... Bergman is a spry and meticulous writer, and these stories linger in one’s memory long after reading them."
— Jim Carmin
"Stories that are so intriguing you wish they were full-length novels... Bergman revives these often troubled spirits with great compassion."
— Connie Ogle
"Real women are found at the heart of these tales, women unusual for their times and almost entirely forgotten in ours... Arresting... Sympathetic, never romanticizing often self-destructive behavior, but exploring why these women sought risk taking and the effect of their impulses."
— Leanna Bales
"Seek within to find the forgotten. Bergman's well-written short stories tell the tales of women who almost made it into history books."
— Tara Wanda Merrigan
"Thrill-seeking women abound in the collection, chock-full of bravery, defiance and creativity."
— Cheryl Crocker McKeon
"There's an allure to reading about the historical lives of women who bucked social conventions, even when they come, as they so often do, to a tragic end. We read them with an element of wish-fulfillment, searching for assurances that there were other ways to think and be."
— Amy Gentry
"Graceful prose charged with knowingness and certitude... Thanks to Bergman’s assured writing, many of these women — fictional and historical — will burn bright in one’s mind well after reading these fine stories."
— S. Kirk Walsh
"Bergman’s scenarios are addictive and tantalizing, each one whetting our appetite for more... stunning depictions of how fame’s fire warms with even the slightest contact."
— Gina Webb
"Bergman always historicizes and never idealizes... by assiduously depicting their intimacy and power struggles, she allows for a close examination of the multiciplicty of women's experiences."
— Naomi Fry
"By exploring the women who didn't quite make it into history books, Bergman offers thoughtful commentary on the stories we do and don't preserve."
— Maddie Crum
"Ingenious… atmospheric… intense, richly imagined tales."
— Maureen Corrigan
"A cleverly constructed, honest, and thoughtful book of stories. Fans of historical fiction and biography will find much to delight and ponder in these pages."
— Julie Hakim Azzam
"[Bergman] nimbly animates the stories when she approaches them from tangential angles, often from the perspective of another character with something at stake."
— John Williams