What can I tell you? I am the product of a happy and relatively uneventful childhood in Cleveland, Ohio (back when the Indians were still a lousy team, and before they became a really good team and then again became a somewhat lousy team, although I have hope again…) This was followed by a happy and relatively squandered college career at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (back when Ann Arbor hosted a Hash Bash every spring). I studied literature and history and always dreamed of being a writer, but had no idea of how you went about being a writer – or at least the kind of writer I wanted to be: someone who wrote long stories about interesting things, rather than news stories about short-lived events. There is no guidebook to becoming that kind of writer, so I assumed I’d end up doing something practical like going to law school, much as the thought of it made me cringe. After college, I moved to Portland, Oregon (back when Portland was cappuccino-free) to kill some time before the inevitable trek to law school – and amazingly enough I lucked into a writing job at a tiny now-defunct monthly magazine. That led to a job at an alternative newsweekly in Portland where I wrote music reviews and feature pieces. While I was in Portland, Mt. St. Helens erupted; I started writing for Rolling Stone and the Village Voice; I learned to cross-country ski; I failed to learn how to cook.
I moved to Boston in 1982 (back before they built the Ted Williams Tunnel and long before the Red Sox reversed the curse). I wrote for the Boston Phoenix and the Boston Globe, and started work on my first book, Saturday Night. Four years later I moved to New York. I learned how to order take-out food; wrote The Orchid Thief; became a staff writer at The New Yorker; got married. A few years ago, we moved to Los Angeles—kind of by accident, but, as it turns out, a happy accident, and for the time being we’re staying put.
These days, I spend most of my time writing for The New Yorker and working on books. My side projects? I do a weekly column for Medium, run a book club on Literati, have lots of speaking engagements, and do some television writing, including a stint on How to With John Wilson (HBO) and the forthcoming adaptation of The Library Book.