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Blood Tie

By Mary Lee Settle

Original Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Current Publisher: University of South Carolina Press

Rebecca Wolff writes:

This adventurous, imagistic novel, its narrative flight as dynamic and hungry as a hummingbird's, is set around a group of expatriates in a fishing village in Turkey. It is of great interest to me not only because its prose is styled with a fierceness of coloration one usually finds in poetry--and maybe this intensity in prose went out of fashion in the transparent eighties?--but also because Mary Lee Settle was only the fourth woman ever to win the NBA in fiction, and this out of 32 winners. And the first three women were Katherine Anne Porter, Joyce Carol Oates, and Flannery O'Connor. After 1981 things evened out a bit better, but in 1978 gender wasn't even the thing that pissed Mary Lee Settle off about the NBA: It was its insiderishness. After winning the award Settle co-founded the PEN/Faulkner award, with "fellow authors as the judges, not the publishing insiders who Settle and other writers rebelled against because of their commercial instincts," or so says Settle's 2005 obituary in the Guardian. Though Settle won awards and taught at Iowa, Bard, and elsewhere, she never felt part of the establishment, and explained it thusly: "I don't write about being vaguely unhappy in Connecticut." This novel stands as exemplar of just how far afield she ventured.

Rebecca Wolff is the author of three books of poetry, most recently, The King (W.W. Norton, 2009). She is the founding editor of Fence magazine and Fence Books.


ISBN: 9781570030970

Fiction Finalists that Year:

  • Robert Coover for The Public Burning
  • Peter De Vries for Madder Music
  • James Alan McPherson for Elbow Room
  • John Sayles for Union Dues

Fiction Judges that Year: Vance Bourjaily, Robert Kirsch, Maureen Howard

The Year in Literature:

  • Elbow Room by James Alan McPherson won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
  • Isaac Bashevis Singer won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

More Information:  

  • Before beginning her writing career, Mary Lee Settle left her home state of Virginia to move to New York City where she would try her luck at acting and modeling. She even tested for the part of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind when she was around nineteen years old. During World War II, she joined the British Women's Auxiliary Air Force, and then the Office of War Information.
  • In the writing world, Settle is most famous for her series of novels called the "Beulah Quintet" (Prisons, O Beulah Land, Know Nothing, The Scapegoat, The Killing Ground), which covers the history of West Virginia.

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Reader Comments (1)

I went on an author residency to Bowling Green, Kentucky with Ms. Settle. She was in her late 70s at that point and the students had a hard time keeping up with her mind. In four days she talked about rumble seats, her friend Mickey Spillane, and being an outsider to the literary establishment. She introduced me to vodka gimlets (with onions), and took me to a small train stop in the middle of nowhere to eat steak and eggs with red-eye gravy. She was kind, quick and an amazing story teller. She told me the greatest compliment she ever received was from a student at a DC public school, "Mary Lee Settle is the shit." As she said this a huge smile came across her face. - Meredith @nationalbook

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