Blake Bailey is the author of definitive biographies of John Cheever and Richard Yates, two greatly troubled writers who produced some of the 20th century’s most enduring fiction. His forthcoming book, Farther and Wilder, explores the life of Charles Jackson, whose own battles with alcohol served as the model for his 1944 breakthrough novel, The Lost Weekend.
“Insofar as my books have an aim,” Bailey writes, “it’s to reconcile the paradox of a highly compartmentalized personality, and ruinously alcoholic midcentury American writers seem to fill that bill nicely.” As he has elsewhere written of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bailey’s investigations of such dissolute characters are marked by his compulsion to uncover the secrets of “writing that makes us see the world afresh—the kind of writing that is better than actual living.”
Cheever: A Life won the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award and the Francis Parkman Prize, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer and James Tait Black Memorial Prizes. Cheever was also named Best Adult Nonfiction Book of 2009 by Booklist, one of Ten Best Books by Publishers Weekly and the Wall Street Journal, one of Ten Best Nonfiction Books by Time and Entertainment Weekly, and was a New York Times Notable Book and on many other Best of the Year lists. Bailey is also the editor of a two-volume edition of Cheever’s work for The Library of America, and in 2010 he received an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Bailey’s articles and reviews have appeared in Slate, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Observer, The Believer, Vice, Spy, Virginia Quarterly Review, Harvard Review, and elsewhere. He’s been writer-in-residence at The College of William & Mary and Old Dominion University, where he’s currently the Mina Hohenberg Darden Professor of Creative Writing. He is currently at work on a memoir, to be published by WW Norton in 2014, and a biography of Philip Roth, also forthcoming from Norton.
Farther & Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson (2013)
Cheever: A Life (2009)
A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates (2003)