December 16, 1960
|Notable works||The Leon Zeisel series|
Allen Kurzweil (born December 16, 1960) is an American novelist, children's writer, editor, essayist, and journalist. He graduated from Yale University in 1982, and has received Fulbright, Guggenheim, and NEH fellowships. He is now a Fellow at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, and sits on the board of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities. He is a cousin of Ray Kurzweil.
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Kurzweil’s first novel, A Case of Curiosities, (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992), set in 18th-Century France, was translated into thirteen languages and earned literary honors in England, Ireland, Italy, and France. The novel was reissued by Harvest Books in 2001.
His next novel, The Grand Complication (Hyperion, 2001), also translated widely, redirected the author’s love of invention to 20th-Century New York. The titular "grand complication" is a 200-year-old timepiece commissioned for Marie Antoinette and stolen from a Jerusalem museum in 1983. To research the circumstances of the theft, Kurzweil spent nearly five years crisscrossing Europe and the Middle East, interviewing detectives, curators, collectors, horologists and watch dealers. Over the last two decades, devotion to the complicated passions of his characters has led Kurzweil to take courses in pop-up book design, study the repair of player-pianos and work behind the reference desk of a public library. He regularly constructs the contraptions "invented" by his characters. To date these devices have included roll-players, pocket-sized potato cannons, clocks and color wheels designed to distinguish different kinds of potato chips. A number of these inventions have been packaged into a science kit for children.
Since 2002, Kurzweil has been writing children’s books. He has published two novels in the bestselling "Leon" series: Leon and the Spitting Image (HarperCollins, 2003), followed by Leon and the Champion Chip (HarperCollins, 2005). Potato Chip Science (Workman, 2010) is an educational, eco-friendly science book and kit for children that comes packaged in a potato chip bag. Children use snack food related materials to learn about science in 29 experiments.
In 2015, Kurzweil will publish Whipping Boy: My Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully, a memoir of his victimization by a roommate while attending the Swiss boarding school Aiglon College as a ten-year-old, and his subsequent efforts in adulthood to track down and confront his former tormentor, who was discovered to be a convicted felon. Kurzweil also published an essay about his experiences in The New Yorker in November 2014.
Allen has received fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Public Library Center for Scholars & Writers, and the John Nicholas Brown Center for the Study of American Civilization at Brown University. He currently sits on the board of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and is a fellow at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island with his wife and child.
- A Case of Curiosities (1992)
- The Grand Complication (2001)
- Leon and the Spitting Image (2003)
- Leon and the Champion Chip (2005)
- Potato Chip Science (2010)
- Whipping Boy: My Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year Old Bully (2015)
- Author’s website
- Author’s children’s book website
- Author's science kit website
- Kurzweil webcast at Library of Congress
- Kurzweil on pocket watches
- Kurzweil NPR interview on potato chips
- KCRW Bookworm Interview