As the acclaimed biographer of two American writers with radically different life stories, Gooch will bring to the program an especially broad sense of the relationship between life and art. His first book, City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O’Hara, explores the brief, bright life of the poet whose candor and direct sensibility helped define the postmodern poetic voice, and whose glamorous career at New York’s Museum of Modern Art helped bring about the styles of a new American painting. Gooch’s most recent book is a biography of Flannery O’Connor, the southerner and devout Catholic whose battle with lupus kept her home-bound throughout her brief adult life, during which she nevertheless wrote some of the most influential short stories of the 20th century. Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and a New York Times bestseller. For his next biography, Gooch travels to Iran, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, to uncover the life of the 13th-century Sufi mystic poet Rumi.
Gooch joins an impressive roster of panelists at the second session, including Blake Bailey (biographer of John Cheever & Richard Yates); Geoff Dyer (whose essay collection Otherwise Known as the Human Condition won this year’s National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction); Kate Moses (whose novel Wintering reimagines the last days of Sylvia Plath); and Brenda Wineapple (author of books on Emily Dickinson, Gertrude Stein, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, among others).2013: Writers on Writers