Angus Wilson was born in Sussex, the youngest of six sons, and spent several of his childhood years in South Africa. A series of odd jobs was followed by a position in the Department of Printed Books in the British Museum, where he worked on replacing as many as possible of the 300,000 books destroyed during the bombing, and later as deputy superintendent of the reading room. Writing short stories on weekends, he was immediately successful. In 1955 he left the museum to become a full-time writer. James Gindin has, with some exaggeration, declared that "Angus Wilson is the best contemporary English novelist." Anglo Saxon Attitudes (1956) is a long, intricate, and witty novel that satirizes, none too gently, such sacred British institutions as the church, the universities, and Her Majesty's Government. The Middle Age of Mrs. Eliot (1958) won the James Tait Black Memorial Award for fiction in 1959. The Old Men at the Zoo (1961) is a story of conflict and conscience in a microcosm, the London Zoo in the 1970s. In Late Call (1965), a retired couple face problems of readjustment when they go to live with their widowed son. No Laughing Matter (1967) traces the fortunes of a British family throughout half a century beginning in 1912. In addition to short stories and novels, Wilson wrote Emile Zola: An Introductory Study of His Novels (1952), Tempo: The Impact of Television on the Arts (1966), The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling (1977), and The World of Charles Dickens (1970).
Jane Smiley was born in Los Angeles, California on September 26, 1949. She received a B. A. at Vassar College in 1971 and an M. F. A. and a Ph.D from the University of Iowa. From 1981 to 1996, she taught undergrad and graduate creative writing workshops at Iowa State University. Her first critically acclaimed novel, The Greenlanders (1988), was preceded by three other novels and a highly regarded short story collection, The Age of Grief (1987). In 1985, she won an O. Henry Award for her short story Lily, which was published in The Atlantic Monthly. Her novel A Thousand Acres (1991) received both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Her other works include Moo; Horse Heaven; and Ordinary Love and Good Will. In 2014 her title, Some Luck, made The New York Times Best Seller List.