Emma Cline's Debut Novel Published to Much Acclaim

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10-Jun-16
Emma Cline’s ’13 much-anticipated debut novel, The Girls, has been published to great acclaim. The novel, which follows 14-year-old Evie as she joins a Manson-like cult in 1969 Northern California, grew out of her Plimpton Prize–winning short story “Marion,” which she wrote as part of her MFA coursework in the Writing Program.

Upon its release, The Girls was met with rapturous praise. “Twenty-seven years old, Cline is already a talented stylist, apparently fast-tracked by the Muses,” James Wood wrote in his featured review for The New Yorker. “At her frequent best, Cline sees the world exactly and generously. On every other page, it seems, there is something remarkable.” In the New York Times, Dylan Landis praised the novel as a “seductive and arresting coming-of-age story”: “Cline gorgeously maps the topography of one loneliness-ravaged adolescent heart,” she wrote. Christian Lorentzen called the novel “masterful” in New York, adding that Cline “converted a quintessentially ’60s story into something timeless.” The Guardian agreed: “Taut, beautiful and savage, Cline’s novel demands your attention,” wrote Sarah Ditum; Marion Winik shared the sentiment in his review for Newsday: “I missed a meeting at work recently because I was so lost in Emma Cline’s novel, ‘The Girls,’ that I didn’t even look at the clock until it was an hour past time to leave. At that point, I figured I might as well give in and spend the day finishing it—then lay awake, turning its final images over in my mind.”

The book first garnered public attention two years ago, when Random House purchased the manuscript as part of a three-book deal after engaging in a bidding war with 12 other publishers; by then, rights for the film version had already been purchased by Academy Award–winning producer Scott Rudin, and its foreign rights had been sold in five countries. “The hubbub around ‘The Girls’ threatens to trample what’s so deeply affecting about it,” Ron Charles wrote this week in his review for the Washington Post. “With the maturity of a writer twice her age, Cline has written a wise novel that’s never showy: a quiet, seething confession of yearning and terror. … [D]ebut novels like this are rare, indeed.”

“Marion,” the short story Cline wrote at Columbia, was published in The Paris Review in 2013; two years later, after it received the prestigious $10,000 Plimpton Prize for Fiction, Penguin Books republished the story in the anthology The Unprofessionals: New American Writing from the Paris Review, alongside writing by Zadie Smith, Ben Lerner, fellow Writing Program alumni Brenda Shaughnessy ‘98 and Craig Morgan Teicher ’05, and Writing Program faculty members Angela Flournoy and Dorothea Lasky. Cline is currently on a book tour for The Girls through the end of June.

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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.