December 2, 2007
Born and raised in Tennessee, Madison Smartt Bell has lived in New York and in London and now lives in Baltimore. The author of 12 novels, including All Souls Rising, a National Book Award finalist in 1995, Bell is a professor of English and director of the Kratz Center for Creative Writing at Goucher College, where his wife, the poet Elizabeth Spires, also teaches. Last week, Bell received a $250,000 Strauss Living award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The award, largest of the academy's literature prizes, is intended to provide the financial means to permit recipients to devote their time to writing for a period of five years.
November 11, 2007
Madison Smartt Bell does not consider himself a Baltimorean. Not yet. Maybe not ever. "I feel like that would be an extravagant claim," the acclaimed novelist says, his Tennessee roots evident in his accent. "I've been here 20 years and that's not that long," Bell says. "In terms of people I consider Baltimoreans, that would be people who were born here and whose parents were born here, too. I'm a Tennessean in that sense." But Bell has become quite fond of Baltimore since moving here in the mid-1980s to join his wife, Elizabeth Spires, a poet.
March 11, 2007
In his new biography of Toussaint Louverture, Baltimore novelist Madison Smartt Bell says the Haitian revolutionary can "fairly be called the highest-achieving African-American hero of all time." Toussaint led the "only successful slave revolution in recorded history," he says, and founded "the only independent black state in the Western Hemisphere ever to be created by former black slaves." Bell is talking in a third-floor workroom beneath the roof of his Cedarcroft home. He's written many of his books here.
February 19, 2006
The Stone That the Builder Refused By Madison Smartt Bell Vintage / 768 pages / $16.95 Taylor Branch isn't the only Baltimore writer to recently complete a monumental trilogy. With this third novel, Madison Smartt Bell brings to an end his panoramic, tempestuous and bloody portrayal of the Haitian rebellion at the dawn of the 19th century.
January 4, 2005
In this sun-splashed attic in suburban Baltimore, an 18th-century Haiti slave revolt was forged and fought. Tens of thousands were indiscriminately slaughtered; women raped, children mutilated. Plantations were burned and their owners were beheaded. It was a massacre of epic proportions and obscenity, arising from a complex maelstrom of race, caste and imperialism - and all of it spilled from the mind of a Southern-born white novelist while he was sitting in this peaceful attic office - as distant in time, space and character from Haiti's nightmare as might be imagined.
November 21, 2004
The Stone That the Builder Refused by Madison Smartt Bell. Pantheon. 750 pages. $29.95. With the first two volumes of his ambitious Haitian trilogy, Madison Smartt Bell invited readers on a demanding literary journey: more than 1,000 pages of dense history, tangled plots and a colossal cast of characters. Now, with the publication of The Stone that the Builder Refused -- the trilogy's third volume -- Bell asks readers to embark on the final and most formidable stretch of this journey: a 750-page account of the last two years in the life of Toussaint L'Ouverture, hero of Haiti's slave rebellion.