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Writer to Writer: Mary Morris and Valerie Martin

Thursday March 6, 2014
07:00 pm

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Photo Credit: Frank Bergon (Martin)

Valerie Martin read from her new novel, The Ghost of the Mary Celeste, followed by a discussion with author Mary Morris.

 

 

About The Ghost of the Mary Celeste (Nan A. Talese)


In 1872 the American merchant vessel Mary Celeste was discovered adrift off the coast of the Azores. Her cargo was intact and there was no sign of struggle, but the crew was gone. They were never found.

 

This maritime mystery lies at the center of an intricate narrative branching through the highest levels of late-nineteenth-century literary society. While on a voyage to Africa, a rather hard-up and unproven young writer named Arthur Conan Doyle hears of the Mary Celeste and decides to write an outlandish short story about what took place. The account causes a sensation back in the United States, particularly between sought-after Philadelphia spiritualist medium Violet Petra and a rational-minded journalist named Phoebe Grant, who is seeking to expose Petra as a fraud. Then there is the family of the Mary Celeste‘s captain, a family linked to the sea for generations and marked repeatedly by tragedy. Each member of this ensemble cast holds a critical piece to the puzzle of the Mary Celeste.

 

Throughout the novel, three elements—a ship found sailing without a crew, a famous writer on the verge of enormous success, and the rise of an unorthodox and heretical religious fervor—converge in unexpected ways, in diaries, in letters, in safe harbors and rough seas. In a haunted, death-obsessed age, a ghost ship appearing in the mist is by turns a provocative mystery, an inspiration to creativity, and a tragic story of the disappearance of a family and of a bond between husband and wife that, for one moment, transcends the impenetrable barrier of death.

 


Valerie Martin is the author of nine novels, including TrespassItalian FeverThe Great DivorceMary Reilly, and the 2003 Orange Prize-winning Property and of three collections of short fiction.

 

Mary Morris is the author of fourteen books - six novels, including Revenge, three collections of short stories, and four travel memoirs, including The River Queen. Recently her stories have appeared in such places as The Atlantic, Ploughshares, and Narrative. The recipient of the Rome Prize in Literature, Morris teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College.