Buford, Bill 1954–

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Buford, Bill 1954–

(William Holmes Buford)


Born October 6, 1954, in Baton Rouge, LA; son of William H. (a physicist) and Helen Buford; married Alicja Kobiernicka, July 6, 1991 (divorced); married Jessica Hawkins Green, October 18, 2002. Education: University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1977; King's College, Cambridge, M.A., 1979.


Office—New Yorker, 4 Times Sq., New York, NY 10036-7440.


Writer, editor, journalist. Granta magazine, editor, chairman, 1979-95; New Yorker, literary and fiction editor, 1995-2002, European correspondent, 2003—.



Among the Thugs: The Experience and the Seduction of Crowd Violence, Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1991, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1992.

Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, Knopf (New York, NY) 2006.


The End of the English Novel, Viking (London England), 1981.

Best of Young British Novelists, Viking (London England), 1983.

Dirty Realism, Viking (London England), 1983.

Greetings from Prague, Viking (London England), 1984.

Travel Writing, Viking (London England), 1984.

Richard Ford—The Womanizer, Viking (New York, NY), 1992.

The Best of Granta Travel, Viking (New York, NY), 1992.

The Best of Granta Reportage, Viking (New York, NY), 1993.

Biography, Viking (New York, NY), 1993.

Krauts!, Viking (New York, NY), 1993.

The Best of Young British Novelists II, Viking (New York, NY), 1993.

Crime!, Viking (New York, NY), 1994.

The Granta Book of the Family, Viking (New York, NY), 1995.

Editor of more than thirty other Granta books.


Although born in the United States, Bill Buford has spend much of his creative life in England and Europe. After receiving a master's degree from King's College, Cambridge, he became editor of Granta magazine, one of England's most prestigious literary reviews, and became chair of Granta Publications. Under Buford's editorship, numerous issues of Granta have been published in book form, testimony to the review's influence as a showcase for the best in contemporary literature and criticism. Representative titles include two issues featuring selections from some of England's best new novelists, including authors William Boyd, Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, and Maggie Gee. Another issue-turned-book is Dirty Realism, which showcases some of the new writing talent in the U.S. by authors Jayne Anne Phillips, Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff, Bobbie Ann Mason, and others. Taken together, these volumes serve as an anthology documenting significant trends in contemporary literature.

Buford's ability to identify these trends depended in part on his immersion into contemporary English culture. One day in the mid-1980s, he saw firsthand a disturbing side to that culture: the wanton violence perpetrated by mobs of soccer fans. These "lads," as they call themselves (they are often dubbed in the press as "thugs" or "hooligans"), use professional soccer matches as a pretext for drunken rampages leading not just to property damage but often to death. Buford found himself fascinated by the violence. He became an insider, ingratiating himself with such leading hooligans as Steamin' Sammy, Daft Donald, and Barmie Bernie. Buford traveled with the lads to soccer venues throughout Britain and Europe. Among the Thugs: The Experience and the Seduction of Crowd Violence records his experiences.

In the Washington Post Book World, Jonathan Yardley praised Among the Thugs for being "vivid and precise" in its descriptions of the denizens of this bizarre world and the peculiar forms of violence they inflict. (Buford confesses that he took part in some milder forms of that violence and attests to the exhilaration such mob behavior can induce.) Similarly, Richard Eder in the Los Angeles Times Book Review found the book "vividly, comically and horrifyingly reported" and marked by "powerful set-pieces." In Among the Thugs, however, Buford does not just report; he tries to probe the psychology that lies behind the violence, "the moment when many, many different people cease being many, many different people and become … a crowd." He concludes that the rioters are not the poor and underprivileged, lodging a protest against those who have more; as he states in the book, they come, rather, from "a highly mannered suburban society stripped of culture and sophistication and living only for its affectations: a bloated code of maleness, an exaggerated, embarrassing patriotism, a violent nationalism, an array of bankrupt anti-social habits. This bored, empty, decadent generation … uses violence to wake itself up."

The critics extended Among the Thugs a cordial reception. Although Yardley found the book "imperfect," he concluded: "[Buford's] best is very good: animated, witty and so pungent you can taste the stale lager and smell the fetid air." In the New York Times Book Review, Clancy Sigal called Among the Thugs "an important, perhaps prophetic book … both exciting and sad at the core."

Buford left Granta in 1995 to become the literary and fiction editor for the New Yorker. He subsequently left that magazine in 2002 and returned to Europe the following year as that magazine's correspondent and also to write book-length nonfiction. In 2006, he published the long-awaited Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany. Writing for the online NY Restaurant Insider, Owen Berkowitz noted that the book grew out of a "two-year period in which [Buford] quits his job as editor at the New Yorker in order to pursue a relationship with food that will make him ‘more human.’ He entered the kitchen looking for a method, and instead found delicious madness." Thus, Heat grew out of what was initially a profile piece for the New Yorker on the celebrity chef Mario Batali. An amateur cook with aspirations, Buford became an apprentice in the kitchen at Batali's restaurant, Babbo. But journalism soon gave way to Burford's personal culinary search. "Before long, he was ducking out of the office to take workshops in sausage making and traveling across Italy to ferret out ancient pasta recipes," commented Jeff Bercovici in WWD. As with Among the Thugs, Buford once again immersed himself in an alien culture to come up with an insider's view. What emerged is a portrait not only of Batali's trajectory in becoming a great cook, but also in Buford's own personal journey of culinary self-discovery.

Critics responded warmly to Buford's second work of nonfiction. For Booklist contributor Mark Knoblauch, "Buford's mastery of the stove is exceeded only by his deft handling of English prose." Jennifer Reese, writing in Entertainment Weekly found Heat "wonderfully thoughtful and personal." Similarly, a Publishers Weekly contributor termed it "a wonderfully detailed and highly amusing book," and Newsweek critic Nicki Gostin felt that Buford's descriptions of various Italian dishes "make even the culinary-challenged salivate." A reviewer for the Economist found more than mere food in the pages of Heat: "It's not just about food, and cooking, but about the culture and history that surround them, and a journey into a world where managing words comes a poor second to skills with flavours." New York Times Book Review writer Julia Reed considered Heat a "remarkable journey." Reviewers in trade publications also praised the book, with Restaurant Hospitality reviewer Bob Krummert noting: "Buford writes so well, and his enthusiasm for food and the restaurant life is so engaging, that professional readers will still find it highly entertaining."



Buford, Bill, Among the Thugs: The Experience and the Seduction of Crowd Violence, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1992.

Buford, Bill, Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.


Allure, November 1, 2006, "Insider's Guide: Bill Buford Interview," p. 102.

Booklist, May 1, 2006, Mark Knoblauch, review of Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, p. 61.

Bookseller, July 21, 2006, "A Real Sizzler," p. 42.

California Bookwatch, August, 2006, review of Heat.

Chronicle of Higher Education, October 13, 2006, Amy Bentley, review of Heat.

Daily Variety, October 16, 2002, Craig Offman, "New Yorker's Buford Books Exit Strategy," p. 1.

Economist, August 12, 2006, review of Heat, p. 71.

Entertainment Weekly, May 26, 2006, Jennifer Reese, review of Heat, p. 109.

Library Journal, May 15, 2006, Rosemarie Lewis, review of Heat, p. 126.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 14, 1992, Richard Eder, review of Among the Thugs: The Experience and the Seduction of Crowd Violence, p. 3.

New Statesman, July 17, 2006, Rachel Cook, review of Heat, p. 56.

Newsweek, June 12, 2006, Nicki Gostin, review of Heat, p. 76; July 24, 2006, Dorothy Kalins, review of Heat, p. 55.

New York Times, June 23, 2006, William Grimes, review of Heat, p. E35.

New York Times Book Review, June 7, 1992, Clancy Sigal, review of Among the Thugs, p. 9; May 28, 2006, Julia Reed, review of Heat, p. 9.

People, June 26, 2006, review of Heat, p. 49.

Publishers Weekly, April 3, 2006, review of Heat, p. 57; May 8, 2006, Mark Rotella, "A Foodie's Journey: PW Talks with Bill Buford," p. 56.

Restaurant Hospitality, December, 2006, Bob Krummert, review of Heat, p. 23.

School Library Journal, September, 2006, Ellen Bell, review of Heat, p. 248.

Times (London, England), November 2, 1991, review of Among the Thugs, p. 48.

Washington Post Book World, May 31, 1992, Jonathan Yardley, review of Among the Thugs, p. 3.

WWD, June 9, 2006, Jeff Bercovici, "Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire," p. 16.


Cooking for Engineers,http://www.cookingforengineers.com/ (December 29, 2006), review of Heat.

Guardian-Observer Online,http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (July 9, 2006), Adam Mars-Jones, review of Heat.

Independent Online, http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/ (July 23, 2006), Danuta Kean, review of Heat.

NY Restaurant Insider,http://www.nyrestaurantinsider.com/ (April 7, 2007), Owen Berkowitz, "Interview with ‘Heat’ Author Bill Buford."