John Wray (novelist)

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Wray at the 2018 Texas Book Festival

John Henderson (born 1971), better known by his pen name John Wray, is a novelist and regular contributor to The New York Times Magazine. Born in Washington, D.C., of an American father and Austrian mother, he is a citizen of both countries. He grew up in Buffalo, New York, attended the Nichols School for his high school education, and then graduated from Oberlin College, majoring in Biology. He dropped out of graduate school twice: first from New York University’s M.F.A. program in poetry, where he won an Academy of American Poets Prize, and then, a few years later, from Columbia University’s fiction program. He currently lives in Mexico City.[1]


Wray's first novel, The Right Hand of Sleep, (Knopf, 2001) received positive reviews[2] and was awarded a Whiting Award.

His second novel Canaan’s Tongue (2005) is based on the legend of the preacher John Murrell, described by Mark Twain in Life on the Mississippi.[3] In connection with his second novel, he did a 600-mile tour by raft on the Mississippi River in 2005. In 2007 Wray was chosen by Granta magazine as one of the "Best of Young American Novelists".

His third novel, Lowboy (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2008), is narrated by 16-year-old William Heller, a schizophrenic who has just escaped a mental institution, in the flight through the subways of Manhattan.[4]

His fourth novel, The Lost Time Accidents (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2016), chronicles a century in the life of a family of eccentric physicists, time travelers and cult leaders, and incorporates elements of science fiction and fantasy in its plot.

His fifth novel, Godsend (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2018), was inspired by the story of John Walker Lindh. It follows 18-year-old Aden Sawyer, who runs away and disguises herself as a man to study Islam in Pakistan.

Wray was also frontman of the Brooklyn band Marmalade, which released the album Beautiful Soup in 2003.[5] As part of the promotional activities surrounding the release of Lowboy, he recorded subway musicians for a Lowboy MP3 soundtrack.

He is a recipient of the 2010/2011 Berlin Prize Fellowship from the American Academy in Berlin.



  1. ^ "About". JOHN WRAY. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  2. ^ Carey Harrison (May 20, 2001). "A Bird's-Eye View of Hell". New York Times Book Review. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  3. ^ Sam Lipsyte (July 10, 2005). "'Canaan's Tongue': Manhunt". New York Times Book Review. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  4. ^ Charles Bock (February 24, 2009). "Off His Meds, on the Uptown B". New York Times Book Review. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 September 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "Mary Ellen von der Heyden Fiction Fellow, Class of Fall 2010". American Academy in Berlin. Retrieved March 14, 2012.

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