Hortense Calisher

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Hortense Calisher
Born (1911-12-20)20 December 1911
New York City, United States
Died 13 January 2009(2009-01-13) (aged 97)
New York City, United States
Pen name Jack Fenno
Occupation Novelist
Nationality American
Period 1951–2004

Hortense Calisher (December 20, 1911 – January 13, 2009) was an American writer of fiction.


Personal life[edit]

Born in New York City, and a graduate of Hunter College High School (1928)[1] and Barnard College (1932), Calisher was the daughter of a young German Jewish immigrant mother and a somewhat older Jewish father from Virginia whose family she described as "volcanic to meditative to fruitfully dull and bound to produce someone interested in character, society, and time".[2]

Writing style[edit]

Calisher involved her closely investigated, penetrating characters in complicated plotlines that unfold with shocks and surprises in allusive, nuanced language with a distinctively elegiac voice, sometimes compared with Eudora Welty, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Henry James. Critics generally considered Calisher a type of neo-realist and often both condemned and praised for her extensive explorations of characters and their social worlds. Her writing was at odds with the prevailing minimalism typical of fiction writing in the 1970s and 1980s that employed a spartan, non-romantic style without undue expressionism.[citation needed]

Honors and awards[edit]

A past president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and of PEN, the worldwide association of writers, she was a National Book Award finalist three times, won an O. Henry Award (for "The Night Club in the Woods") and the 1986 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize (for The Bobby Soxer), and was awarded Guggenheim Fellowships in 1952 and 1955.[3] She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1997.[4]


Calisher died at the age of 97 on January 13, 2009, in Manhattan.[5] She was survived by her husband, Curtis Harnack, and her son from her previous marriage, Peter Heffelfinger. Calisher was predeceased by her daughter, Bennet Heffelfinger.



  • In the Absence of Angels (short stories 1951)
  • False Entry (novel 1961)
  • Tale for the Mirror (novella and short stories 1962)
  • Textures of Life (novel 1963)
  • Extreme Magic (novella and short stories 1964)
  • Journal from Ellipsia (novel 1965)
  • The Railway Police and The Last Trolley Ride (novellas 1966)
  • The New Yorkers (novel 1969)
  • Queenie (novel 1971)
  • Standard Dreaming (novel 1972)
  • Eagle Eye (novel 1973)
  • The Collected Stories of Hortense Calisher (1975, revised 1984)
  • On Keeping Women (novel 1977)
  • Mysteries of Motion (novel 1983)
  • Saratoga, Hot (novella and short stories 1985)
  • The Bobby-Soxer (novel 1986)
  • Age (novel 1987)
  • The Small Bang (novel under the pseudonym of Jack Fenno 1992)
  • In the Palace of the Movie King (novel 1993)
  • In the Slammer with Carol Smith (novel 1997)
  • The Novellas of Hortense Calisher (1997)
  • Sunday Jews (novel 2003)



  1. ^ Johnston, Laurie. "Competition Intense Among Intellectually Gifted 6th Graders for Openings at Hunter College High School; Prominent Alumni Program for Seniors", The New York Times, March 21, 1977. Accessed May 11, 2010.
  2. ^ Calisher, Hortense. Tattoo for a Slave. Orlando: Harcourt, 2004.
  3. ^ Guggenheim Memorial Foundation 1952 Fellows Page
  4. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter C" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 25, 2014. 
  5. ^ Noble, Holcomb B. January 15, 2009. "Hortense Calisher, Author, Dies at 97", The New York Times

External links[edit]