Jane Smiley was born in Los Angeles and educated at Vassar College and the University of Iowa. She is currently a professor of English 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). Smiley's novel A Thousand Acres (1991) received both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Like King Lear, to which it invites comparisons, the novel deals with the division of property, a father, three daughters, and the powerful feelings and secret crimes that bind them. Familial relations preoccupy Smiley throughout her works. "I think the tensions of family life are the interesting things to talk about since I accept the closeness of family as a given," she commented in an interview. She eyes the shifting ground of love relations without illusion, yet with sympathy: her portrait of marriage through the meditations of a 35-year-old dentist and father of three girls in The Age of Grief (1987) conveys beautifully the compromises of closeness and the intensities and confusions of ordinary life."Everything I write, I write in a sort of investigative mode," Smiley has said, "and to me an interesting character is a person who is trying to figure out what's right and trying to reconcile everything that they are told with what their feelings are. I think my characters are usually trying to come up with some right way to act, or even to think or be, in the face of a lot of confusing input."