Sheer Bliss: A Creole Journey
By Michela A. Calderaro
“We all know Jean Rhys. But now, out from under the shadow of her more famous contemporary, comes Eliot Bliss. Bliss: an early twentieth century, white creole, Jamaican, lesbian writer. Bliss: whose out-of-print 1931 novel Saraband Calderaro first stumbles across in a bookshop in New York in 1998. Bliss: the absent figure Calderaro pursues throughout this book. The scholar Michela Calderaro reads into the past to recover Bliss, a writer she reveals as ahead of her time and not fit for her time or place in the world. Calderaro delivers Bliss back to the present, through interviews conducted across many years with Bliss’s lifelong partner Patricia Allan-Burns, through the recollections of editors and friends painstakingly tracked down, through letters and diaries discovered and meticulously pored over and pieced together. Calderaro’s book is, like Bliss’s own novels as we come to learn, genre-defying. One part biography, one part criticism, one part memoir, one part detective story, Sheer Bliss carries us on the ‘treasure hunt’ Calderaro enacted over twenty years of research and personal devotion to solving a literary puzzle: Who exactly was Eliot Bliss and why were she and her work forgotten? Calderaro answers in luminous prose and what amounts to the most suspenseful excavation of a writer’s life and lost-then-recovered legacies I’ve yet encountered.”
—Shara McCallum, Professor of English, College of Liberal Arts, Penn State University
Michela A. Calderaro has taught English and postcolonial literature at universities in Italy and the United States. She is the author of A Silent New World: Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End and editor of Spring Evenings in Sterling Street: Poems by Eliot Bliss.
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