Joseph McElroy

Joseph McElroy bigraphy, stories - author

Joseph McElroy : biography

August 21, 1930 –

Joseph Prince McElroyFull name as used on his doctoral thesis The Poetry of Henry King, Columbia University, 1961. (born August 21, 1930) is an American novelist, short story writer, and essayist. He is noted for writing difficult fiction.

Personal background

Joseph McElroy was born on August 21, 1930, in Brooklyn, New York, the only child of Joseph Prince and Louise (née Lawrence) McElroy. McElroy’s father was a scholarship student to Harvard University who majored in chemistry, but later worked as a stockbroker. He died when McElroy was 15 years old.

McElroy grew up in Brooklyn Heights. He graduated from Poly Prep Country Day School in 1947 and was given an Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award in 2007 from the school’s Board of Governors. He attended Williams College, from where he earned a Bachelors degree in 1951. The following year, he earned a Masters degree from Columbia University. He served in the Coast Guard from 1952–54, and then returned to Columbia to complete his Ph.D. in 1961.World Authors 1975-1980

In 1961, McElroy married Joan Leftwich, of London, in London. She is the daughter of Yiddish-speaking Orthodox Jews. Her father, Joseph Leftwich, was a translator and anthologizer of Yiddish of his translations was used by McElroy in A Smuggler’s Bible from an anthology Leftwich dedicated to Joan The McElroy’s only child, a daughter Hanna, was born in 1967. McElroy assisted with the birth.


McElroy taught English at the University of New Hampshire (1956-1962) and retired from teaching in 1995, after 31 years in the English department at Queens College, City University of New York.

McElroy’s writing is often grouped with that of William Gaddis and Thomas Pynchon, due to the encyclopedic quality of his novels, particularly the 1,192 pages of Women and Men (1987). His short fiction was first published in literary journals. Echoes of McElroy’s work can be found in that of Don DeLillo and David Foster Wallace. McElroy’s work often reflects a preoccupation with how science functions in American society;Tom LeClair interview Exponential, a collection of essays published in Italy in 2003, collects science and technology journalism written primarily in the 1970s and 1980s for the New York Review of Books.

In 1980, McElroy and his class at Queens College interviewed Norman Mailer."A Little on Novel-Writing", Columbia: A Magazine of Poetry and Prose 6 (1981)Mailer, Norman, Pontifications (1982). He interviewed Harry Mathews in 2002 for the Village Voice.

McElroy commented on his own fiction and his influences in his ."Neural Neighborhoods and Other Concrete Abstracts", TriQuarterly 34 (Fall 1975), pp201-2.

Published works


  • A Smuggler’s Bible, Harcourt Brace, 368 pages, 1966. ISBN 978-0233959764
  • Hind’s Kidnap: A Pastoral on Familiar Airs, Harper and Row, 534 pages, 1969. ISBN 978-0893661052
  • Ancient History: A Paraphase, Knopf, 307 pages, 1971. ISBN 978-0394469256
  • Lookout Cartridge, Knopf, 531 pages, 1974. ISBN 978-0394493756
  • Plus, Knopf, 215 pages, 1977. ISBN 978-0394407944
  • Women and Men, Knopf, 1192 pages, 1987. ISBN 978-0394503448
  • The Letter Left to Me, Knopf, 151 pages, 1988. ISBN 978-0394571966
  • Actress in the House, Overlook, 432 pages, 2003. ISBN 978-1585673506


  • Cannonball, Dzanc Books, June 2013 August 13, 2013 here.

Short stories

  • Ship Rock: A Place, William B. Ewert, Concord, New Hampshire, limited edition, 42 pages, 1980
    • republished as a chapter in Women and Men, 1987
  • Preparations for Search 1984
    • revised and printed as a chapbook, by Small Anchor Press, 2010
  • Night Soul and Other Stories, Dalkey Archive Press, 304 pages, 2011. ISBN 978-1564786029


  • Exponential (2003; published in Italy)

Honors and awards

  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, Fiction, 1976
  • American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, 1977
  • Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship
  • Ingram Merrill Foundation Fellowship, twice
  • National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, twice