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Harry Mathews

Harry Mathews was born in 1930 and raised on New York City’s Upper East Side. He attended Princeton University for a year and a half, served one year in the U.S. Navy, then transferred to Harvard, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music in 1952. Mathews then moved to Paris where, in 1956, he met John Ashbery. In 1961, Mathews and Ashbery, together with James Schuyler and Kenneth Koch, founded the influential literary journal Locus Solus.

Mathews is the author of six novels, among them The Sinking of the Odradek StadiumCigarettes, and, most recently, My Life in CIA. His collections of poetry include Trial ImpressionsA Mid-Season Sky: Poems 1954-1991, and, most recently, The New Tourism. His short stories have been collected in The Human Country, and his critical writings in The Case of the Persevering Maltese. Mathews has published a number of translations from the French, notably Georges Bataille’s Blue of Noon, as well as work by Raymond Roussel and Georges Perec. He is also the author of a number of books that defy routine classification: Selected Declarations of Dependence (illustrated by Alex Katz), a work entirely derived from a set of 46 familiar proverbs; Singular Pleasures, 61 vignettes on the subject of masturbation, with illustrations by Francesco Clemente; and 20 Lines A Day, which was promoted by Dalkey Archive Press as “a book that is part journal, part writer’s manual, and part genius.”

Mathews’s works reveal a life-long interest in formal procedures, reflecting in part the influence of the Oulipo, a Paris-based group of writers and mathematicians of which Mathews has been a member since 1973. He has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and in 2002 he was awarded France’s Order of Arts and Letters. He was the Paris editor of The Paris Review from 1989-2003

Mathews is married to the writer Marie Chaix, with whom he lives in Paris, Lans-en-Vercors, and Key West.

Online Resources:

Interviewed by John Ashbery
Official Oulipo website (in French)
Interview w/ Michael Boyden
Profile in New York Press
Digital edition of Mathews’s EPITHALAMIUM
Dalkey Archive Press page for Mathews
28 Hints from or about Harry Mathews @ DC’s
MR. SMATHERS: short story by Mathews on EBR
Conversation w/ Joseph McElroy in the Village Voice
THE CHRONOGRAM FOR 1998, from Jacket 3
CALIBRATIONS OF LATITUDE, from the Boston Review

Selected Bibliography:

The New Tourism (Sand Paper Press 2010)

My Life in CIA (Dalkey Archive Press 2005)

The Case of the Persevering Maltese: Collected Essays (Dalkey Archive Press 2003)

The Human Country: New and Collected Stories (Dalkey Archive Press 2002)

Oulipo Compendium (Atlas 1998)

The Journalist (David R. Godine Books 1994)

Singular Pleasures (Dalkey Archive Press 1993)

A Mid-Season Sky: Poems 1954-1991 (Carcanet 1992)

20 Lines a Day (Dalkey Archive Press 1988)

Cigarettes (Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1987)

Country Cooking and other stories (Burning Deck 1980)

Selected Declarations of Dependence (Z Press 1977)

Trial Impressions (Burning Deck 1977)

The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium (Harper & Row 1975)

The Planisphere (Burning Deck 1974)

Tlooth (Doubleday: Paris Review Editions 1966)

The Conversions (Random House 1962)