Benjamin Anastas

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Benjamin Anastas (born 1969) is an American novelist, memoirist, journalist and book reviewer born in Gloucester, Massachusetts. He teaches literature at Bennington College and is part of the core faculty of the Bennington Writing Seminars.[1]

Writing career[edit]


Anastas started publishing his short fiction while a graduate student at the Iowa Writer's Workshop.[2] His first novel, An Underachiever's Diary, is a comic send-up of the meritocracy narrated by the underachieving half of a set of identical twins.[3] On the jacket of Anastas's second book, The Faithful Narrative of a Pastor's Disappearance: A Novel, Daniel Handler called it "hands down, the best novel of the year".[4] It concerns the life of a Congregational church in suburban Boston[5] and was a The New York Times Notable Book.[6]

Journalism and other writings[edit]

Anastas's fiction, criticism, essays and journalism have appeared in Story, GQ, The Paris Review, The New Republic online,[7] The New York Observer,[8] The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, and Bookforum. In 2005, The Yale Review published his novella Versace Enthroned with Saints: Margaret, Jerome, Alex and the Angel Donatella[9] and later awarded it the Smart Family Foundation Prize for Fiction.[2]

More recently, Anastas has published articles on the Mayan Calendar 2012 hoax in The New York Times Magazine,[10] the prosperity gospel in Harper's Magazine[11] and a short piece about his father's nude portrait on Granta's website.[12] His essay "The Foul Reign of Emerson's 'Self Reliance'", also from The New York Times Magazine, was selected for The Best American Essays 2012, guest edited by David Brooks.[13]


His memoir, Too Good To Be True, was published in 2012.[14][15] The title is taken from a sign that the author was made to wear around his neck by a childhood therapist.[16] It tells the story of his stalled career as a writer, the end of his marriage,[17] and his attempts to rebuild his life again.[18] Anastas published the book with Amazon's fledgling publishing imprint in New York City and numerous bookstores have refused to stock it.[17] Giles Harvey, writing in The New Yorker,[19] groups Too Good to Be True in a category he calls the "failure memoir"[20] and cites F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Crack-Up essays as an influence.



  1. ^ "Authors: Benjamin Anastas". PEN American Center. Retrieved April 21, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Subversive Satire and Antiheroes: Novelist Benjamin Anastas Reads from His Fiction, October 6". Washington College. September 21, 2005. Retrieved April 21, 2012. 
  3. ^ Polk, James (April 12, 1998). "Very Good for Nothing". New York Times Sunday Book Review. Retrieved February 5, 2013. 
  4. ^ Anastas, Benjamin (2002). The Faithful Narrative of a Pastor's Disappearance: A Novel. Picador. Retrieved April 21, 2012. 
  5. ^ Carey, Jacqueline (May 20, 2001). "There'll Always Be a New England". New York Times Sunday Book Review. Retrieved February 13, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Notable Books:Fiction". New York Times Sunday Book Review. December 2, 2001. Retrieved February 5, 2013. 
  7. ^ Anastas, Benjamin (May 18, 2001). "The Irony Scare". The New Republic. Retrieved April 21, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Benjamin Anastas". The New York Observer. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  9. ^ Anastas, Benjamin (January 2005). "Versace Enthroned with Saints: Margaret, Jerome, Alex and the Angel Donatella". The Yale Review. Yale University. 93 (1). doi:10.1111/j.0044-0124.2005.00878.x. 
  10. ^ Anastas, Benjamin (July 1, 2007). "Apocalypse – Maya – Armageddon – Rapture – End of Days – New York Times". Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  11. ^ Anastas, Benjamin. "Mammon from heaven: The prosperity gospel in recession". Harper's Magazine. Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  12. ^ Anastas, Benjamin (February 26, 2009). "Portrait of my father". Retrieved May 12, 2011. 
  13. ^ Robert Atwan (ed.), David Brooks (guest ed.). The Best American Essays 2012, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. ISBN 978-0-547-84009-3
  14. ^ Anastas, Benjamin (2012). Too Good to Be True: A Memoir. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-547-91399-5. 
  15. ^ Williams, John (October 18, 2012). "On the Rocks: Benjamin Anastas Talks About 'Too Good to Be True'". New York Times Artsbeat. Retrieved October 18, 2012. 
  16. ^ Sullivan, James (January 31, 2013). "Memoir Helps Ben Anastas Bridge Gap with His Father". Boston Globe North. Retrieved February 4, 2013. 
  17. ^ a b Trachtenberg, Jeffrey A. (November 13, 2012). "The Dark Memoir Some Bookstores Don't Want You to Buy". The Wall Street Journal Speakeasy Blog. Retrieved February 4, 2013. 
  18. ^ Sanburn, Josh (November 14, 2012). "How to Rack Up Debt and Ruin Your Life". Time Business & Money. Retrieved February 4, 2013. 
  19. ^ Giles Harvey (March 25, 2013). "Cry Me a River: The Rise of the Failure Memoir". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 22, 2013. 
  20. ^ Giles Harvey (March 25, 2013). "Cry Me a River: The Rise of the Failure Memoir". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 22, 2013. 

External links[edit]