Philipp Meyer

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Philipp Meyer
BornMay 3 1974
New York City, US[1]

Philipp Meyer is an American fiction writer, and is the author of the novels American Rust and The Son, as well as short stories published in The New Yorker and other places. Meyer also created and produced the AMC television show based on his novel.[2] Meyer won the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize, was the recipient of a 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship[3] and was a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize.[4] He won the 2014 Lucien Barrière prize in France and the 2015 Prix Littérature-Monde Prize in France.[5] In 2017 he was named a Chevalier (Knight) in France's Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Meyer considers his literary influences to be "the modernists, basically Woolf, Faulkner, Joyce, Hemingway, Welty, etc."[6] Various outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, and the UK's Telegraph have compared his writing to William Faulkner,[7] Ernest Hemingway,[8] Cormac McCarthy,[9] and J. D. Salinger.[10]


Meyer grew up in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. Hampden is a working class neighborhood mostly known as the setting for many of John Waters's films about Baltimore. [11] Meyer attended the Baltimore City Public Schools system, including Baltimore City College High School, until dropping out at age 16 and getting a GED. He spent the next five years working as a bicycle mechanic and occasionally volunteering at Baltimore's Shock Trauma Center.

At age 20, while taking college classes in Baltimore, Meyer decided to become a writer. He also decided to leave his hometown and at 22, after several attempts at applying to elite colleges, was admitted to Cornell University. Cornell was a hugely positive experience for Meyer, who reflected that “All of the sudden I wasn’t alone."[12] During his time at Cornell, Meyer wrote a 600-page novel that was never published, later dismissing it as "self-indulgent undergrad nonsense".[13] Meyer graduated from Cornell with a degree in English and many years later received an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas.


Meyer worked as a first responder on and off for nearly fifteen years. In his early twenties he volunteered as an orderly at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in downtown Baltimore. He would later serve as a volunteer firefighter in fire departments outside Baltimore and in rural New York State. He was one of the first outside EMTs to respond to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 in New Orleans, driving his own vehicle there and arriving on the day of the storm. [14]

Meyer also spent a few years working on Wall Street. After graduating from college, he took a job with the Swiss investment bank UBS as a derivatives trader. He describes his experience there as "soul crushing"[12] but also maintained friendships with many of his old colleagues.

After several years at UBS, Meyer committed to pursuing his dream of becoming a writer. He wrote a second novel that he could not get published, a book he has called "an apprentice-level work". He moved back into his parents' house in Baltimore, taking jobs driving an ambulance and as a construction worker. He was preparing for a long-term career as a paramedic when, in 2005, he received a fellowship at the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, Texas, where he wrote the majority of American Rust. Random House bought American Rust at the end of 2008.[12] During his time at the Michener Center, Meyer met fellow writer Kevin Powers, who later wrote the 2012 Iraq War novel The Yellow Birds.

In 2010, Meyer was named to The New Yorker's "20 under 40", its decennial list of 20 promising writers under the age of 40.[15]

In 2013, Meyer finished work on his novel The Son, and began developing it as a TV show, along with some University of Texas classmates. He co-founded a television production company, El Jefe, but it dissolved a few years later.

In 2016, AMC picked up The Son as a television series starring Pierce Brosnan.[16]

In 2019, Showtime announced they were adapting Meyer's first novel into a show called Rust, starring Jeff Daniels [17]

American Rust[edit]

The bulk of American Rust was written during Meyer's time at the Michener Center (2005–2008). In December 2007 the novel was acquired by Spiegel & Grau, a Random House imprint. American Rust was eventually acquired by publishers in 23 countries and translated into 17 languages. It is a third person, stream-of-consciousness narrative influenced, according to Meyer, by writers such as James Joyce, William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, and James Kelman.[18]

American Rust was a winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (2009). Reviewers in the UK's The Daily Telegraph[19], The Plain Dealer[20] in Cleveland, and Dayton Daily News[21] have suggested it fits the category of "Great American Novel".

The Son[edit]

Toward the end of composing American Rust, Meyer sought to find another subject through which he could explore what he felt was the "creation myth of America".[22]

Meyer's original vision for The Son was quite different from the final novel; it originally featured "six or seven characters”, was "set in the present day", and "was conceived [...] as a book about the rise of a family dynasty and America’s relationship with war and violence."[11] After two and a half years working on this version, Meyer realized that "these characters were talking about this legendary guy, and they were commenting on the American myth, in a way. And finally [...] it finally hit me that ... I needed the legendary character [Eli McCullough] in the book."[11]

The inspiration for the revised novel grew out of recalling his time studying for his MFA at the University of Texas, during which Meyer became familiar with the so-called "Bandit War" of 1915–1918.[23] He saw the potential for a novel concerning the Bandit Wars and the "creation myth of Texas"[22] to explore broader historical issues about the development of America as a whole. After American Rust's publication, Meyer began to research Texas history more closely. Meyer has estimated that he read 350 or so books about the history of Texas and diverse topics from captivity narratives to guides on bird tracks[22] in the course of his composition of the novel.[23] To gather historically accurate material for the book, Meyer learned how to tan deer hides, taught himself how to hunt with a bow, spent a month with military contractor Blackwater for firearms training, and shot a buffalo at a ranch so he could drink its blood - giving him a reference point for Comanche rituals.[13][22]

With The Son, Meyer sought to write "[...] a modernist take on the American creation myth. I didn't want the characters to be mythological figures, the way they're presented to us as kids in movies and in some books."[23] The writing took five years.[6][13][24]

The Son was published in May 2013.[25] It was described in press releases as "an epic of Texas",[26] with the plot concerning "three generations of a Texas family: Eli, his son Pete and Pete’s daughter Jeanne. Each face their own challenges—Comanche raiders, border wars and a changing civilization, respectively."[27] Meyer has described the novel-in-progress as "[a] partly historical novel about the rise of an oil and ranching dynasty in Texas, tracing the family from the earliest days of white settlement, fifty years of open warfare with the Comanche, the end of the frontier and the rise of the cattle industry, and transitioning into the modern (oil) age. The rise of Texas as a power pretty closely parallels America's rise to global power, for obvious reasons. And I wanted to write about the parts of America that are growing, rather than declining."[28]

Meyer has said that he has conceived The Son to be the second part of a trilogy of novels that began with American Rust.[28]

The Son was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction[29] and won the Lucien Barrière Prize in France as well as the Prix Littérature-Monde in France. It was also long listed for the International Dublin Literary Award.

The City[edit]

Meyer's third novel will be published in 2021, according to sources online. [30] Meyer intended The City to be a modern take on Dante's Divine Comedy, with elements of magical realism and science fiction. The book is structured similarly to The Son, with multiple points of view and interlocking stories.



Short stories[edit]

  • "You Are Right Here" Texas Observer Spring Books Issue, March 2011
  • "What You Do Out Here, When You're Alone" The New Yorker, June 2010
  • "Mother" Esquire UK, August 2009
  • "The Wolf” The Iowa Review, Summer 2006
  • “One Day This Will All Be Yours” McSweeney’s Issue 18, Winter/Spring 2006

Awards and recognition[edit]


  1. ^ Jennifer L. Knox (14 June 2010). "Philipp Meyer". The New Yorker. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
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  3. ^ a b John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Site "Philipp Meyer Bio"
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  6. ^ a b "Deep in the Heart of Texas: Philipp Meyer on 'The Son'". Retrieved 23 March 2015.
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  11. ^ a b c "A roundabout road to literary success for Austin's Philipp Meyer". Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  12. ^ a b c "Hog Hunting With Texas's Next Literary Giant". Texas Monthly. 30 May 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  13. ^ a b c Alexandra Alter (23 May 2013). "Philipp Meyer: An Obsessed Novelist's Extreme Research". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Alison Flood. "New Yorker unveils '20 under 40' young writers list". the Guardian. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
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  22. ^ a b c d "How author Philipp Meyer fell in love with Texas". Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  23. ^ a b c "Philipp Meyer on The Son". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  24. ^ "Book review: 'The Son,' by Philipp Meyer". Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  25. ^ The Son: Philipp Meyer: 9780857209429: Books. ASIN 0857209426.
  26. ^ Emily Witt. "Stake Through the Heart: A Bad Breakup for Philipp Meyer and Esther Newberg". Observer. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  27. ^ "Philipp Meyer's #2 goes to Ecco". Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  28. ^ a b "Philipp Meyer". Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  29. ^ a b "The Pulitzer Prizes - Citation". Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  30. ^
  31. ^ New Yorker "20 Under 40: Q & A Philipp Meyer" June 14, 2010

External links[edit]