I was born in New Rochelle, New York; attended New Rochelle High School and Horace Mann School; and graduated from Yale University with a degree in English. I took classes from such eminent teachers as Harold Bloom, David Milch, Marjorie Garber, Richard Sewell, Theodore Solotaroff, Richard Brodhead, Stanley Elkin, R.W.B. Lewis, William Ferris, Alvin Kernan, Thomas Bergin, and David Brion Davis. Truly, giants strode the earth.
My first job was as an editor at The New Leader, the venerable once-Socialist biweekly. I left in 1978 to be a fulltime freelance writer, and for the next fourteen years I alternated jobs (as an editor/writer at New Jersey Monthly and Philadelphia Magazine and a movie critic at the Philadelphia Daily News) with stints as a freelancer. Along the way, I’ve written for the American Scholar, Boulevard, the Columbia Journalism Review, Dissent, Esquire, and, in fact, magazines that start with every letter of the alphabet except J, K, Q, X and Z.My first book was Will Rogers: A Biography (Knopf, 1993). You can get information about it and my other books here.
In 1992, I started teaching journalism in the English Department at the University of Delaware. I’m currently a professor of English there and in 2007 helped inaugurate a journalism minor at UD. I spend most of my writing time on books, which you can read about elsewhere on this website. In a 2005 essay for Slate, I publicly declared that I would no longer write magazine articles–but I still occasionally contribute essays and reviews for Slate, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the New York Times Book Review, and other publications. My latest book is The B-Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song. I am represented by the Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency.