Distinguished Essayist & Novelist
Acclaimed Film Critic
“Lopate is a fantastic writer—humane, wry, and always astonishingly willing to take on the ineffable, attuned to the complexities of symbiotic relationships we only intuited before his dazzling collage was created.”
“Phillip Lopate is one of our few essential essayists. He registers with accuracy and tact the voice of a man of deep human impulse living in a civilization on the wane. His fearlessness is tonic, his candor is straight gin.” —Sven Birkerts
Widely considered one of the foremost American essayists and a central figure in the recent revival of interest in memoir writing, Phillip Lopate is best known for his supple and surprising essays, which have been collected in Getting Personal: Selected Writings (Basic Books, 2003). Lopate is the author of three essay collections, Bachelorhood (Little, Brown & Co., 1981); Against Joie de Vivre (Simon & Schuster, 1989); and Portrait of My Body (Doubleday-Anchor, 1996). A new collection Portrait Inside My Head, was published in February 2013 (Simon & Schuster). He has also published two novellas in the book entitled Two Marriages (Other Press, 2008); two novels, Confessions of Summer (Doubleday, 1979) and The Rug Merchant (Viking, 1987); three poetry collections, At the End of the Day: Selected Poems (Marsh Hawk Press, 2009), The Eyes Don't Always Want to Stay Open (Sun Press, 1972), and The Daily Round (Sun Press, 1976); and a memoir of his teaching experiences, Being With Children (Doubleday, 1975). Lopate is also the author of Notes on Sontag, a frank, witty, and entertaining reflection on the work, influence, and personality of one of the "foremost interpreters of...our recent contemporary moment." An instructive book, To Show and Tell: the Craft of Literary Nonfiction was published in February 2013 (Simon & Schuster).
He has also edited the anthologies The Art of the Personal Essay, Writing New York (The Library of America, 1998); Journal of a Living Experiment (Teachers & Writers Press, 1979); and a series collecting the best essays of the year, The Anchor Essay Annual (Anchor, 1997-9). Lopate’s work has been included in The Best American Essays and The Pushcart Prize series. One of his most recent book of nonfiction prose is the urbanistic meditation, Waterfront: A Journey Around Manhattan, of which Conde-Nast Traveler wrote, “The celebrated essayist takes a tour of the city’s ever-changing perimeter, sharing his knowledge of New York’s history, mythology, and plans for the future. Poring over his informed, readable prose is like taking a stroll with a favorite professor: he is opinionated, casual, and erudite in equal measure.”
Also a film critic, Lopate has written about movies for The New York Times, Vogue, Esquire, Film Comment, Film Quarterly, Cinemabook, Tikkun, American Film, and the anthology The Movie That Changed My Life, among others. A volume of his selected movie criticism, Totally Tenderly Tragically, was published by Doubleday-Anchor in 1998. His most recent film anthology is American Movie Critics: From the Silent Era to the Present (The Library of America, 2006). His writings about architecture and urbanism have appeared in Metropolis, The New York Times, Double Take, Preservation, Cite and 7 Days, where he wrote a bimonthly architectural column. He was also a recipient of a Revson Fellowship in Urban Studies at Columbia, and served as a committee-member for the Municipal Art Society and as a consultant for Ric Burns' PBS documentary on the history of New York City. He has written on travel for the New York Times Sophisticated Traveler, Conde Nast Traveler, European Travel and Life, Sidestreets of the World, and American Airlines Magazine.
Review by the NYTimes of Lopate's Essays
Lopate’s many awards include a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York Public Library Center for Scholars and Writers Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and two New York Foundation for the Arts grants. He also received a Christopher medal for Being With Children, the Texas Institute of Letters Award for best nonfiction book of the year (Bachelorhood), and was a finalist for the PEN Diamondston-Spielvogel Award for best essay book of the year (Portrait of My Body). His anthology Writing New York received an honorable mention from the Municipal Art Society's Brendan Gill Award, and a citation from the New York Society Library.
Phillip Lopate was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1943, and received a bachelor's degree at Columbia in 1964, and a doctorate at Union Graduate School in 1979. He held the Adams Chair at Hofstra University, where he is a professor of English, and has been appointed a Professor of Professional Practice in the School of the Arts and the School of Journalism at Columbia University.
About PORTRAIT INSIDE MY HEAD (Essays, 2013)
In this stunning compilation of personal essays, celebrated author, film critic, poet, and acclaimed essayist Phillip Lopate weaves together the most colorful threads of a life well lived, inviting readers on an invigorating and thoughtful journey through memory, culture, parenthood, the trials of marriage both young and old, and an extraordinary look at New York’s storied past and present. Letting his mind wander skillfully across the page, Lopate offers a stirring meditation on everything from sex and politics to baseball and aging. Portrait Inside My Head is a charming and spirited new collection for readers to treasure.
About TO SHOW AND TELL: THE CRAFT OF LITERARY NONFICTION (Nonfiction, 2013)
In his acclaimed classic anthology, The Art of the Personal Essay, Phillip Lopate gave readers a premier collection of the finest essays in the genre. Now, in To Show and to Tell, he provides the nuts and bolts, offering a refreshing new master class on the craft of the personal narrative, including the personal essay and memoir. In his flawless, appealing conversational prose, Lopate gives expert guidance on navigating the many issues facing writers today, including how to turn oneself into a character; how to write about friends and loved ones; and how to successfully end an essay, all the while elaborating on the evolving place of creative nonfiction in the literary world. The result is a brilliant magnum opus compiled from over forty years of teaching his craft to thousands of young writers, from elementary students to MFAs.
About NOTES ON SONTAG (Nonfiction, 2009)
Adopting Sontag's favorite form, a set of brief essays or notes that circle around a topic from different perspectives, renowned essayist Phillip Lopate considers the achievements and limitations of his tantalizing, daunting subject through what is fundamentally a conversation between two writers. Reactions to Sontag tend to be polarized, but Lopate's account of Sontag's significance to him and to the culture over which she loomed is neither hagiography nor hatchet job. Despite admiring and being inspired by her essays, he admits a persistent ambivalence to Sontag. Lopate also describes the figure she cut in person through a series of wry personal anecdotes of his encounters with her over the years. Setting out from middle-class California to invent herself as a European-style intellectual, Sontag raised the bar of critical discourse and offered up a model of a freethinking, imaginative, and sensual woman. But while crediting her successes, Lopate also looks at how her taste for aphorism and the radical high ground led her into exaggerations that could do violence to her own common sense, and how her ambition to be seen primarily as a novelist made her undervalue her brilliant essays. Honest yet sympathetic, Lopate's engaging evaluation reveals a Sontag who was both an original and very much a person of her time.
About TWO MARRIAGES (Novellas, 2008)
Elegant, concise, and comically devastating, Two Marriages illuminates the ways in which love is inseparable from deceit. "The Stoic’s Marriage" chronicles the life of newlyweds Gordon and Rita. Well-off, idle Gordon, a lifelong student of philosophy who has always had “a stunted capacity for happiness,” first meets the enchanting Rita when she comes to his home as a nurse’s aid sent to care for his dying mother. The attraction is instant, and a marriage proposal ensues. Gordon turns to his diary to record his uxoriousness and to expound on the merits of Stoicism, the philosophy he’s adopted as his “substitute religion.” When Rita’s cousin from the Philippines arrives one Christmas, setting in motion an outrageous and hilarious sequence of events, both Gordon’s stoicism and marriage vows are put to the test. Eleanor, or, "The Second Marriage" recounts one seemingly golden weekend in the lives of Eleanor and Frank, whose Brooklyn townhouse is a gathering place for their circle of cultured, cosmopolitan friends. It is Saturday morning, and Frank and Eleanor are planning the dinner they will host to celebrate the visit of a famous actor friend. These preparations are interrupted by the arrival of Frank’s son, a young man deeply troubled by his own aimlessness. Other guests arrive; and in the midst of great conviviality, simmering tensions erupt into raucous emotional dramas.