Melissa Bank, witty bestselling author, dies at 61

Author Melissa Bank poses for a portrait with a coffee mug in hand.
Melissa Bank, author of “The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing,” in her New York apartment in 2005. Publisher Viking says Bank, who had lung cancer, died Tuesday in East Hampton, N.Y.
(Kathy Willens / Associated Press)

Melissa Bank, whose 1999 bestseller “The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing” was a series of interconnected stories widely praised for its wit and precise language and embraced by young readers, has died at age 61.

Viking Books announced that Bank died Tuesday in East Hampton, N.Y. She had lung cancer.

Bank was a Philadelphia native with a master’s degree from Cornell University whose influences ranged from Vladimir Nabokov to Grace Paley. She needed 12 years to finish “The Girls’ Guide,” in part, because of a bicycle accident that damaged her short-term memory and ability to think of words. But her book, which follows a young woman’s life from adolescence to adulthood, was a critical and commercial success.

“Bank draws exquisite portraits of loneliness, and can do it in a sentence,” Newsweek’s Yahlin Chang wrote.


Two stories from “The Girls’ Guide” were adapted into the 2007 romantic comedy “Suburban Girl,’’ starring Alec Baldwin and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Bank also wrote the comic story collection “The Wonder Spot,” in which she traced a woman’s efforts to find her place in the world, and her writings appeared in Ploughshares and Zoetrope among other publications. She also taught in the master of fine arts program at Stony Brook Southampton.