Joseph McElroy

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Joseph McElroy
Born (1930-08-21) August 21, 1930 (age 87)
New York City, United States
Occupation Novelist, Professor
Nationality American
Literary movement Postmodern
Notable works Lookout Cartridge,
Women and Men

Joseph Prince McElroy[3] (born August 21, 1930) is an American novelist, short story writer, and essayist. He is noted for writing difficult fiction.[4]

Personal background[edit]

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.[5] He graduated from Williams College in 1951. The following year, he earned a master's degree from Columbia University. He served in the Coast Guard from 1952 to 1954, and then returned to Columbia to complete his Ph.D. in 1961.[6]

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 poetry.[7] The McElroys' only child, Hanna, was born in 1967. McElroy assisted with the birth.[6]


McElroy taught English at the University of New Hampshire from 1956 to 1962[6] and at Queens College, City University of New York from 1964 to 1995, when he retired.

McElroy's writing is often grouped with that of William Gaddis and Thomas Pynchon, due to the encyclopedic quality of his novels, especially 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;[8] 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.[9]

In 1980, McElroy and his class at Queens College interviewed Norman Mailer.[10][11] He interviewed Harry Mathews in 2002 for the Village Voice.[12]

McElroy wrote about his fiction and influences in his essay "Neural Neighborhoods".[13]

Honors and awards[edit]

Published works[edit]


Short stories[edit]


  • Exponential (2003; published in Italy)

"Neural Neighborhoods and Other Concrete Abstracts,"

Further reading[edit]

  • Colby, Vineta (ed). World Authors, 1975-1980
  • LeClair, Tom. "An Interview with Joseph McElroy", Anything Can Happen, Tom LeClair and Larry McCaffery (eds.), 1983.
  • Morrow, Bradford. "An Interview", Conjunctions 10 (1987).

Book chapters on McElroy[edit]

Anthologies of McElroy criticism[edit]


  1. ^ All are mentioned as influences in "Neural Neighborhoods" and/or the Tom LeClair interview
  2. ^ Burn, Stephen J. (ed) Conversations with David Foster Wallace, see live chat with Wallace on Infinite Jest
  3. ^ Full name as used on his doctoral thesis The Poetry of Henry King, Columbia University, 1961.
  4. ^ Andrew Essex (2003-06-03). "The Complications - Page 1 - Books - New York". Village Voice. Retrieved 2012-10-07. 
  5. ^ "Poly Prep Country Day School ~ Five Alumni Receive Distinguished Achievement Awards". 2007-04-15. Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f World Authors 1975-1980
  7. ^ one of his translations was used by McElroy in A Smuggler's Bible from an anthology Leftwich dedicated to Joan
  8. ^ Tom LeClair interview
  9. ^ "Joseph McElroy: Official Author Website". Exponential. Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  10. ^ "A Little on Novel-Writing", Columbia: A Magazine of Poetry and Prose 6 (1981)
  11. ^ Mailer, Norman, Pontifications (1982).
  12. ^ Should Writing Hurt?
  13. ^ "Neural Neighborhoods and Other Concrete Abstracts", TriQuarterly 34 (Fall 1975), pp201-2.
  14. ^ "All Fellows - John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation". Archived from the original on 2012-09-07. Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  15. ^ "American Academy of Arts and Letters - Award Winners". Archived from the original on 2008-10-13. Retrieved 2012-09-18. 

External links[edit]