Melissa Bank, Author of The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, Dead at 61

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Melissa Bank, the author best known for writing The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, is dead at age 61. According to a statement from Viking Penguin, she died August 2, 2022, in East Hampton, New York, after a struggle with lung cancer. Bank’s breakout book, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, debuted in 1999 and was a New York Times best seller for 16 weeks. It is a series of short stories linked by a common main character named Jane Rosenthal. It is generally understood that the book is at least somewhat autobiographical. “Jane and Banks [sic] were both born in Philadelphia and live in New York, they share a neurologist father who died of leukaemia in his late 50s, a background in publishing, an older lover with a history of drunkenness and diabetes,” wrote Simon Hattenstone in a ’99 profile of Bank in the Guardian. At the time of its release, the book was often compared to Bridget Jones’s Diary, though “Bank’s is a far more subtle piece of work, which achieves even more than it aims to,” said The New Yorker in its review.

Bank was regularly associated with being a “women’s” writer, something she grew to both love and resent. “Women identify with Melissa Bank, whether she likes it or not,” began a 1999 profile of Bank in the New York Times. Later, when she published The Wonder Spot in 2005, she spoke of being grouped into the literary category of chick lit. “The problem with chick lit is it’s become more chick than lit,” said Bank in a Chicago Tribune profile. “It’s denigrating to both readers and writers. It’s as if to say these are books by chicks, about chicks and for chicks, and what happens to a single woman isn’t of consequence to anyone but herself or other women … I can’t believe how offensive that is to women.”

Bank added in the Tribune profile, “I’m really glad that women read my writing. I don’t feel elitist about it. To say I’m not part of it, I feel like I’m dissing both me and my readers.” Bank split her time between New York and East Hampton. She was a faculty member at the 2022 Stony Brook University Southampton Writers Conference with fellow author Matthew Klam, who first shared the news of Bank’s death on social media.

Melissa Bank, The Wonder Spot Author, Dead at 61