ALISON LURIE (1926- ), American writer and scholar, is probably best known for her novels, which have often been described as social satire. She has also published a collection of ghost stories, Women and Ghosts (1994), a book on the psychology of fashion, The Language of Clothes (1981), and a collection of essays on children's literature and folklore, Don't Tell the Grownups (1990).
Her first novel, Love and Friendship (1962), is set in the imaginary New England college town of Converse and describes an unexpected love affair. The Nowhere City (1965) takes place in Los Angeles, where Alison Lurie and her family lived from 1957 to 1961. Its characters include a film starlet, a psychiatrist, and other assorted local types. The War Between the Tates (1974) is set in Corinth University, which has been said to have some similarities to Cornell, and its main characters are a professor who becomes involved with a graduate student, and his distressed wife. It later became an NBC television film starring Elizabeth Ashley and Richard Crenna.
Real People (1969) and Imaginary Friends (1967) also take place in upstate New York: the first in an artists' colony and the second in a small town where a group of eccentrics believe themselves to be in touch with flying saucers. (This novel was made into a Thames television series in 1987.) Only Children (1979), the story of a disastrous weekend houseparty, is also set in rural New York state but in the 1930's.
Since 1970, Alison Lurie has spent part of the winter in Key West, Florida, which is the setting for much of The Truth About Lorin Jones (1989). She also visits Britain once a year. Foreign Affairs (1984), which won the Pulitzer Prize, takes place in London and relates the adventures of two American academics abroad. It was made into a film for television with Joanne Woodward and Brian Denehey. The Truth About Lorin Jones (1989), follows the adventures of a biographer who is researching the life of a famous woman painter. It won the Prix Femina Etranger in France.
Alsion Lurie's most recent novel, The Last Resort (1998) takes place in Key West, Florida, where Wilkie Walker, a world-famous naturalist, and his wife Jenny Walker, come to spend the winter. Though they have been happily married for twenty-five years, things have recently begun to go wrong: Wilkie believes that he is fatally ill and is planning to drown himself. Jenny, who does not know this, thinks that he no longer loves her. Presently they become involved with several local characters, who alter their views of love, marriage, feminism, the environment, aging, and death.
Alison Lurie is also the author of three collections of traditional folktales for children, and was co-editor of the 73-volume Garland Library of Children's Classics. Since 1970 she has taught literature, folklore, and writing at Cornell University. She is married to the writer Edward Hower and has three grown sons and three grandchildren. Her hobbies nclude gardening, needlepoint, and the collecting of contemporary folklore and ghost stories.