Jerome Charyn (born May 13, 1937) is an American author. With nearly 50 published works over a 50-year span, Charyn has a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life.[1] Michael Chabon calls him “one of the most important writers in American literature.” [2]

New York Newsday hailed Charyn as “a contemporary American Balzac,”[3] and the Los Angeles Times described him as “absolutely unique among American writers.”[4]

Since the 1964 release of Charyn’s first novel, Once Upon a Droshky, he has published 37 novels, three memoirs, nine graphic novels, two books about film, short stories, plays and works of non-fiction. Two of his memoirs were named New York Times Book of the Year.[5] Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Charyn was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in Fiction, 1983. He received the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has been named Commander of Arts and Letter (Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) by the French Minister of Culture.

Charyn was Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at the American University of Paris until 2009, when he retired from teaching.

In addition to his writing and teaching, Charyn is a tournament table tennis player, once ranked in the top 10 percent of players in France. Noted novelist Don DeLillo called Charyn’s book on table tennis, Sizzling Chops & Devilish Spins, "The Sun Also Rises of ping-pong."[6]

Charyn lives in Paris and New York City.


Early life

Charyn was born in the Bronx to Sam and Fanny (Paley) Charyn. In order to escape its mean streets, Charyn immersed himself in comic books and cinema.[7] Books were scarce in the Charyn household, save for volume “A” of the Book of Knowledge. After becoming all too well versed in astronomy and aardvarks, Charyn hungered for more. He attended The High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, majoring in painting. Turning from painting to literature, Charyn enrolled at Columbia University, where he studied history and comparative literature with a focus on Russian literature, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and cum laude (BA, 1959).

Later life

Charyn has left footprints all over the globe, living in Greenwich Village, the Bronx, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, California, Houston, Austin, Texas, Paris and Barcelona. He currently divides his time between New York and Paris. During 14 years living in Paris and teaching at the American University, he resisted mastering the French language, fearful of its effect on “the rhythm [of my native speech], even though French words creep into your vocabulary. I don't want my music interfered with.”[8]

In 1968, Charyn joined Noam Chomsky, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Gloria Steinem, William Styron, Kurt Vonnegut, Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg, Susan Sontag, Thomas Pynchon, Henry Miller, James Baldwin and more than 400 others in signing the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[9]

Teaching career

From 1962 through 1964, Charyn taught at his alma mater, Manhattan’s High School of Music and Art, and at High School of Performing Arts, popularized in the movie Fame.

Charyn lectured in English at the City College of New York in 1965. He was assistant professor of English at Stanford University from 1965 to 1968. He served as a visiting professor in colleges across the country, including Rice University in 1979 and Princeton University, from 1981 until 1986. From 1988 to 1989, Charyn was Distinguished Professor at the City College of New York.

From 1995 to 2008, Charyn taught film at American University of Paris, where he is Distinguished Professor emeritus.

Literary career

Charyn often returns to his native Bronx in many of his writings, including a book appropriately named El Bronx. Michael Woolf, who wrote Exploding the Genre: The Crime Fiction of Jerome Charyn, says of Charyn: “Of all the novelists characterized as Jewish-American, Charyn is the most radical and inventive. There is in the body of his work a restless creativity which constantly surprises and repeatedly undermines the reader's expectation."[10]

One of Charyn’s best-known protagonists is Isaac Sidel, a Jewish New York police detective turned mayor, who is the subject of eleven crime novels, including Blue Eyes and Citizen Sidel. The experiences of Charyn’s brother, Harvey, an NYPD homicide detective, added authenticity to this popular series, which attracted a cult following worldwide. The ten books were translated into seven languages and remained in print for three decades. In 1991, Charyn co-produced and co-wrote a TV pilot starring Ron Silver as The Good Policemen. More recently, in April, 2012, Otto Penzler, founder of Mysterious Press, reissued the entire series as eBooks, co-published by Open Road Media.[11] The October, 2012, publication of Under the Eye of God, the first new Sidel thriller in a decade, rebooted the series ahead of a planned adult animated TV drama, to be titled Hard Apple.[12]

Charyn's eight graphic novels were written with the very best European artists, including Jacques de Loustal, José Antonio Muñoz and François Boucq, together with whom he won the 1998 Angoulême Grand Prix. Much of his writing in this genre was influenced by the comic books he devoured as a child. Charyn himself says comic books helped him learn to read.[7]

Charyn's books have been translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Chinese and 11 other languages. Charyn served as judge for the 2011 National Book Awards in Fiction.[13] He is represented by the literary agency headed by Georges Borchardt.

Charyn's personal papers are held by the Fales Library at New York University.

"The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson" – W. W. Norton, 2010

The publication of this novel stirred a great deal of controversy. Some critics felt that Charyn was much too brazen in writing in Emily Dickinson’s voice and surrounding her with invented characters. The New York Times said this “fits neatly into the flourishing genre of literary body-snatching.”[14] In the San Francisco Chronicle, the novel was called a “bodice-ripper.”[15]

Other critics saw the work as a magical tour de force. Joyce Carol Oates, writing in The New York Review of Books, said: “Of literary sleights of hand none is more exhilarating for the writer, as none is likely to be riskier, than the appropriation of another—classic—writer’s voice.”[16] In the Globe and Mail, reviewer William Kowalski wrote: “I had hoped that there was someone like Dickinson out there. My one regret, after finding her, was that I would never get to make her acquaintance. No doubt millions of others feel the same. It’s for us that Jerome Charyn has written this book.”[17]

In The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, Charyn attempts to bring America’s greatest female poet to life by transforming himself into Emily Dickinson. Assuming her voice, he narrates Dickinson’s “secret life” to the reader, delving into her childhood, romantic involvements, even her final illness and death.

On May 1, 2011, The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson was named a "Must-Read" book by the Massachusetts Center for the Book and selected as finalist for its annual book award in the fiction category.[18] The French edition of his novel, titled la vie secrète d'emily dickinson, was released by Rivages in 2013,[19]

Charyn says he drew inspiration for his novel from Emily Dickinson’s letters and poems. He says of Dickinson: “I am fascinated by her writing and the kind of power she had. Where it came from, I don't think we'll ever know.”[20]

"The Collagists"

In 2007 Charyn was asked by literary website Smyles and Fish, along with lifelong friend, novelist Frederic Tuten, to write an essay about their former colleague and friend Donald Barthelme. The project evolved into a lengthy article, which offers a sort of collage of these three writers and the world of their influences. The work is divided into three parts - an introductory essay on the project by editor-in-chief Iris Smyles, Charyn's essay on Barthelme, and Tuten's piece My Autobiography: Portable with Images. The work also features photos of the three writers and their work, as well as quotes from Barthelme himself.[21]


  • Once upon a Droshky, McGraw-Hill, 1964
  • On the Darkening Green, McGraw-Hill, 1965
  • The Man Who Grew Younger, Harper & Row, 1967
  • Going To Jerusalem, Viking, 1967
  • American Scrapbook, Viking, 1969
  • Eisenhower, My Eisenhower, Holt, 1971
  • The Tar Baby, Holt, 1973
  • Blue Eyes, Simon & Schuster, 1975
  • Marilyn the Wild, Arbor House, 1976
  • The Education of Patrick Silver, Arbor House, 1976
  • The Franklin Scare, Arbor House, 1977
  • Secret Isaac, Arbor House, 1978
  • The Seventh Babe, Arbor House, 1979
  • The Catfish Man, Arbor House, 1980
  • Darlin’ Bill, Arbor House, 1980
  • Panna Maria, Arbor House, 1982
  • Pinocchio’s Nose, Arbor House, 1983
  • War Cries Over Avenue C, Donald I. Fine, 1985
  • Paradise Man, Donald I. Fine, 1987
  • The Good Policeman, Mysterious Press, 1990
  • Elsinore, Warner Books, 1991
  • Maria’s Girls, Warner Books, 1992
  • Back to Bataan, Farrar, Straus (for younger readers), 1993
  • Montezuma’s Man, Warner Books, 1993
  • Little Angel Street, Warner Books, 1995
  • El Bronx, Warner Books, 1997
  • Death of a Tango King, New York University Press, 1998
  • Citizen Sidel, Mysterious Press, 1999
  • Captain Kidd, St. Martin’s Press, 1999
  • Hurricane Lady, Warner Books, 2001
  • The Isaac Quartet, Four Walls Eight Windows, 2002
  • The Green Lantern, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2004
  • Johnny One-Eye: A Tale of the American Revolution, W.W.Norton, 2008
  • The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, W.W.Norton, 2010
  • Under the Eye of God, Mysterious Press and Open Road Media, 2012
  • I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War. W. W. Norton & Company. 3 February 2014. ISBN 978-0-87140-427-5. 
  • Bitter Bronx: Thirteen Stories, Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2015, ISBN 9780871404893

Short stories and collections (selected)

  • The Man Who Grew Younger and Other Stories, Harper, 1967
  • Family Man, art by Joe Staton, lettering by Ken Bruzenak, Paradox Press, 1995
  • "The Blue Book of Crime,” in The New Black Mask, Harcourt Brace, 1986
  • "Fantomas in New York", in A Matter of Crime, Harcourt Brace, 1988
  • “Young Isaac,” in The Armchair Detective, 1990
  • "Lorelei". Atlantic Monthly Summer Fiction Issue. Summer 2010. 
  • "Silk & Silk". Narrative Magazine's. October 2010. 
  • "Adonis" in The American Scholar, Winter, 2011 Issue
  • "Little Sister". Atlantic Monthly Fiction Issue. 2011. 
  • "Alice's Eyes". American Short Fiction Summer 2011. 
  • "The Paperhanger's Wife". Fiction Magazine, Number 58. 2012. 
  • "Archie and Mehitabel". The American Scholar, Fiction. Summer 2012. 
  • "The Major Leaguer". Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. September–October 2013. 


  • Metropolis: New York as Myth, Marketplace and Magical Land, Putnam’s, 1986
  • Movieland: Hollywood and the Great American Dream Culture, Putnam’s, 1989, New York University Press, 1996
  • The Dark Lady from Belorusse, St. Martin’s Press, 1997
  • The Black Swan, St. Martin’s Press, 2000
  • Sizzling Chops & Devilish Spins: Ping-Pong and the Art of Staying Alive, Four Walls Eight Windows, 2001
  • Bronx Boy: A Memoir. St. Martin's Press. 11 April 2002. ISBN 978-0-312-27810-6. 
  • Gangsters & Gold Diggers: Old New York, the Jazz Age, and the Birth of Broadway, Four Walls Eight Windows, 2003
  • Savage Shorthand: The Life and Death of Isaac Babel. Random House Publishing Group. 18 December 2007. ISBN 978-0-307-43179-0. 
  • Inside the Hornet’s Head: an anthology of Jewish American Writing, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2005
  • Raised by Wolves: The Turbulent Art and Times of Quentin Tarantino, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2005
  • Marilyn: The Last Goddess [an illustrated biography of Marilyn Monroe], Abrams, 2008
  • Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil, Yale University Press, American Icon series, March, 2011
  • A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century, Bellevue Literary Press, March, 2016

Selected plays and documentaries

  • George (three-act play) developed at the Actors Studio, under Arthur Penn, staged readings at La Maison des Ecrivains (Paris 1988) and Ubu Repertory Theater (NY 1990)
  • Empire State Building, co-writer, semi-fictional documentary broadcast by Canal Plus, (France 2008)


  • Editor, The Single Voice: An Anthology of Contemporary Fiction. New York, Collier, 1969
  • Editor, The Troubled Vision: An Anthology of Contemporary Short Novels and Passages. New York, Collier, 1970
  • Editor, The New Mystery. New York, Dutton, 1993

Publications about Jerome Charyn

  • Vallas, Sophie (2014). Conversations with Jerome Charyn. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 9781628460902. OCLC 875056195. 
  • Vallas, Sophie (2013). Jérome Charyn et les siens : autofictions. Aix-en-Provence: Presses universitaires de Provence. ISBN 9782853998727. OCLC 859437774. 
  • The Review of Contemporary Fiction Summer 1992 issue, devoted to work of Charyn and José Donoso
  • Polar (Paris) summer 1995 issue, devoted to Jerome Charyn
  • Air France Magazine cover story on novel Citizen Sidel, August 1997
  • "Notes on the Rhetoric of Anti-Realist Fiction" by Albert Guerard, in Tri-Quarterly (Evanston, Illinois), Spring 1974
  • "Jerome Charyn: Artist as Mytholept" by Robert L. Patten, in Novel (Providence, Rhode Island), Fall, 1984
  • "Exploding the Genre: The Crime Fiction of Jerome Charyn" by Michael Woolf, in American Crime Fiction: Studies in the Genre Brian Docherty (ed.), New York, St. Martin’s Press, 1988, p. 132 and p. 138.


  • National Endowment for the Arts, Fellowship in Fiction, 1980, 1985
  • Rosenthal Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1981 (for Darlin' Bill)
  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in Fiction, 1983
  • Prix Alfred, Angoulême, 1986 (for graphic novel, La Femme du Magicien)
  • Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (French Minister of Culture – 1989)
  • Fiction Prize, Deauville Festival of American Cinema, 1995
  • Officier des Arts et des Lettres (French Minister of Culture – 1998)
  • Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres (French Minister of Culture – 2002)
  • Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, 2005 (for The Green Lantern)
  • Finalist for Massachusetts Center for the Book Fiction Award, 2011 (for The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson)

Literary archives

  • Charyn’s archives and manuscripts are housed in the Fales Collection at Elmer Holmes Bobst Library of New York University, since 1993.


  1. ^ "I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War" Norton Books online, 2013.
  2. ^ "Review of The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson" Norton Books online, 2010.
  3. ^ "Bloomsbury" Bloomsbury online, 2010.
  4. ^ "Bloomsbury" Bloomsbury Publishing online, 2010.
  5. ^ "NYT Book of the Year" New York Times Book of the Year online, 2010.
  6. ^ "They Also Serve" The Observer online, July 21, 2002.
  7. ^ a b "BOMB" Frederic Tuten, BOMB Magazine online, Fall 2004.
  8. ^ "The Bronx—much thonks" Kera Bolonik, Bookforum online, Feb/Mar 2008.
  9. ^ “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
  10. ^ "Biography of Jerome Charyn" Michael Woolf, Biography online, 2010.
  11. ^ "Open Road Media/Mysterious Press Jerome Charyn Author's Page"
  12. ^ "Tropical Topix" - December 6, 2010
  13. ^ "2011 National Book Awards"
  14. ^ "The Rose Did Caper on Her Cheek" Caryn James, New York Times Book Reviews online, February 16, 2010.
  15. ^ "The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson" Jane Juska, San Francisco Chronicle online, February 2, 2010.
  16. ^ "Ardor in Amherst" Joyce Carol Oates, New York Review of Books online, 2010.
  17. ^ "Post Emily" William Kowalski, Globe and Mail online, April 1, 2010.
  18. ^ "Massachusetts Center for the Book" May 1, 2011
  19. ^ "la vie secrète d'emily dickinson"
  20. ^ "The Bronx—much thonks" Kera Bolonik, Bookforum online, 2010
  21. ^ "The Collagists" Smyles & Fish online, 2010.


  • Jerome Charyn Biography - York, Press, London, World, American, and Arbor. [1]
  • Jerome Charyn's introduction to The Isaac Quartet - Black Box edition of the first four Isaac Sidel books, Four Walls Eight Windows, New York and London, 2002
  • Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers
  • Exploding The Genre: The Crime Fiction of Jerome Charyn in American Crime Fiction, Ed. B. Doherty, St Martin's Press 1988
  • Neon Noir by Woody Haut, Chapter 6 “From Mean Streets to Dream Streets.” Serpents Tail, 1999
  • Jerome Charyn Topics, The New York Times. [2]
  • Jerome Charyn Interview: [3]
  • Jerome Charyn Interview: [4]
  • Powell’s Book Blog. [5]
  • Master of Mythologies: The Fictional Worlds of Jerome Charyn, Marvin Taylor, Curator, Fales Library. [6]

External links

  • The Fales Library Guide to the Jerome Charyn Papers
  • Official Website
  • "The Collagists" at Smyles & Fish
  • Video on YouTube: Charyn discusses chaos and the Bronx, and ping-pong, which inspired his Isaac Sidel crime novel series; the 11th is Under the Eye of God (Mysterious Press/Open Road Media, October, 2012)
  • Video on YouTube: Charyn discusses Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe and his biographical study Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil (Yale University Press, March 2011)
  • Video on YouTube: Charyn discusses Emily Dickinson and critical reaction to his novel The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson (W. W. Norton, 2010). (TRT 3:09 min.)
  • Video: Charyn discusses Emily Dickinson at Harvard Bookstore, NPR Forum Network Free Lecture (March, 2010)
  • Video on YouTube: Charyn discusses his youth in the Bronx, his love for Paris, and his novel Johnny One-Eye (W. W. Norton, 2008)
  • Video on YouTube: Director Naomi Gryn goes back to the Bronx with authors Jerome Charyn and Frederic Tuten (originally broadcast on Channel 4, BBC, 1993)
  • Official Page: Charyn’s novel “The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson”
  • Official Page: Charyn’s Isaac Sidel detective/crime fiction series
  • Official Page: Charyn’s biography “Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil”
  • Official Page: Charyn’s novel “Johnny One-Eye: A Tale of the American Revolution”
  • Official Page: Charyn’s novel “I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War" (Liveright, 2014)