Born in New York in 1937, I grew up in the Bronx and Brooklyn, attended Brooklyn College, and got advanced degrees from Columbia University. New York streets, street games, public schools, museums, movies, libraries, and parks provided sustenance and spaces and friends.
An Ashkenazi middle-class Jewish family, with Yiddish vaguely in the background and Hebrew School, though Hebrew in the ordinary sense was not the subject, was the home anchor. I learned a lot, but there was much rebellion – slammed doors, intellectual arguments. and romantic poses, all of them deeply felt.
There were also the ordinary youthful adventures. And, from early adolescence, the desire, and the attempt to write poetry and fiction, to be a combination of Shakespeare and James Joyce whose “non serviam” and totemic ash-plant became defining assets. In 1959, I married. We had met in college, studied Greek together, and then became graduate students.
Books in order of publication:
Thomas Carlyle: A Biography – 1983
Sacred Tears: Sentimentality in Victorian Literature – 1987
Dickens: A Biography – 1988
Henry James: The Imagination of Genius, A Biography – 1992
Gore Vidal: A Biography – 1999
The Singular Mark Twain: A Biography – 2003
Coffee with Mark Twain – 2008
Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer – 2008
John Quincy Adams: American Visionary – 2014
Lincoln and the Abolitionists: John Quincy Adams, Slavery, and the Civil War – 2017
His Masterly Pen: A Biography of Thomas Jefferson the Writer – 2022