Born in PA. Education: Lock Haven University, B.A.; Northeastern University, M.Ed.; Columbia University, M.F.A.
Writing instructor in New York, NY, and at writing workshops, including New School University and Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Has worked as a publicist for William Morrow, New York, NY, and in student life at North Carolina School of the Arts, State University of New York—Purchase, Northeastern University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology; coordinator of literary events at KGB Bar and Drawing Center, New York, NY.
Fellowships from Yaddo, New York Foundation for the Arts, Sewanee Writers Conference, and Julia and David White Artists Colony.
(Editor) The KGB Bar Reader (short fiction), Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.
The Kind I'm Likely to Get (short fiction), Quill (New York, NY), 1999.
(Editor and contributor) Dog Culture: Writers on the Character of Canines, Globe Pequot Press (Guildford, CT), 2002.
Contributor to The Ex-Files.
Contributor to periodicals, including Bomb, Flaunt, McSweeney's, Newsday, New York Times Book Review, San Francisco Chronicle, and Village Voice.
WORK IN PROGRESS:
A short novel titled Missing; a novel set in Costa Rica.
Ken Foster is the editor of The KGB Bar Reader and the author of The Kind I'm Likely to Get, two critically acclaimed short-story collections. A graduate of Columbia University's writing program, Foster served as the coordinator of literary events at the KGB Bar in New York City from 1994 to 1998. The KGB Bar Reader contains twenty-eight stories that were first read at KGB, from such writers as Rick Moody, Kathryn Harrison, Jennifer Egan, and Junot Diaz. New Yorker critic Daphne Merkin found the tales to be personal and intimate, remarking that many of the stories in the anthology, "which includes relatively established voices … as well as less familiar ones, shamelessly reveal aspects of the writers that are blushworthy, or at least not what you'd feature about yourself on a first date." Merkin also applauded the universal nature of the stories. "Considering how unique our experience is," the critic stated, "it's curious how much agreement exists—how much, that is, someone else's perceptions can seem borrowed from your own arsenal, as though you had been sharing your interior life without being aware of it." Writing in Harper's, Vince Passaro called The KGB Bar Reader "one of the strongest collections of new writing available."
The 1999 work The Kind I'm Likely to Get was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. In the collection, Foster examines the fragmented and sometimes frustrated lives of urban dwellers. The book's fourteen stories are interwoven; peripheral characters in some tales reappear as the focus in others. A number of stories concern John and Mary, a former couple whose relationship is seen at different points in time. New York Times Book Review critic Stephanie Zacharek praised Foster's style and tone. "For such a distinctly urban writer, he shows a surprising amount of delicacy," Zacharek noted. "His characters carry the usual assortment of difficulties around with them—love troubles, a penchant for prostitution, flirtations with dangerous drugs, the inability to feel truly at home anywhere—but he knows how to write about disaffection without turning it into dishwater gray weariness. He understands that mining the territory of unhappiness doesn't mean punishing the reader."
According to a reviewer in Publishers Weekly, The Kind I'm Likely to Get "captures the blunt ethos of underachievers. Characters are cursed with alienated souls, temp jobs, and nowhere relationships. Worse, most are approaching, or have crossed into, the dread 30s." In the collection Foster "combines depth and simplicity in a way that makes for potent reading," wrote Library Journal contributor Joshua Cohen. As Foster told San Francisco Chronicle interviewer Sam Whiting, the collection was written for "people who have moved around, people of any age who have had the sort of life where they've taken risks or pursued things that weren't the direct, clean line of living."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Entertainment Weekly, September 11, 1998, review of The KGB Bar Reader, p. 126.
Harper's, August, 1999, Vince Passaro, review of The KGB Bar Reader, p. 80.
Library Journal, July, 1999, Joshua Cohen, review of The Kind I'm Likely to Get, p. 138.
New Yorker, October 5, 1998, Daphne Merkin, review of The KGB Bar Reader, p. 108.
New York Times Book Review, August 29, 1999, Stephanie Zacharek, "Bright Lights, Etc.," review of The Kind I'm Likely to Get, p. 12.
Publishers Weekly, July 27, 1998, review of The Kind I'm Likely to Get, p. 66; June 7, 1999, review of The Kind I'm Likely to Get, p. 138.
San Francisco Chronicle, August 12, 1999, Sam Whiting, "A Book for Wandering Souls" (interview).
Ken Foster Home Page,http://www.ken-foster.com (December 16, 2004).
PifMagazine.com,http://www.pifmagazine.com/ (October, 2000), Whit Coppedge, interview with Foster.
SmallSpiralNotebook.com,http://www.smallspiralnotebook.com/ (March, 2002), Felicia Sullivan, interview with Foster.*