Fordham Notes: The Romantic Academic

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Romantic Academic

Under the nom de plume Eloisa James, Fordham English professor Mary Bly has watched her latest romance novel, The Ugly Duchess (Avon/HarperCollins, 2012), tie for the number four spot on The New York Times Best Sellers List. And there’s more. Bly, that is to say, James, has also been invited to speak just before Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa at the National Book Festival on the National Mall in Washington D.C. this Saturday, September 22.

With Llosa in the audience, Saturday’s event promises to merge Bly’s Shakespearean “high-brow” scholarship with James’s “mass-market” appeal. Last week, in The Washington Post, Bly mused about the challenges of her dual identity, where James’s wardrobe of “pink and, on occasion, sequins” contrasts with that of Bly’s “prim red glasses and tweedy coats.” But it was James who received the invitation to speak in D.C. “This is a little like a soap opera star being invited to present the Gielgud Award,” she writes here.

It’s not the first time that the author’s dueling worlds have intersected. Just this past spring James’s Paris in Love (Random House, 2012) dealt with Bly’s very real world diagnosis of breast cancer. In spite of its non-fiction subject matter, Bly wrote the book as James. That book spent three weeks on Times bestseller list.

Tom Stoelker

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