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Foster, Ken 1964–

Foster, Ken 1964–

PERSONAL:

Born September 2, 1964, in Williamsport, PA; son of William (a professor of art) and Marbeth (a registered nurse) Foster. Education: Lock Haven University, B.A., 1987; Northeastern University, M.Ed., 1989; Columbia University, M.F.A., 1996.

ADDRESSES:

Home—New Orleans, LA. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer. William Morrow (publisher), New York, NY, worked as publicist; KGB Bar and Drawing Center, New York, NY worked as coordinator of literary events; writing instructor in New York, NY, and at writing workshops, including New School University and Iowa Summer Writing Festival; guest on radio programs.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Fellowships from Yaddo, New York Foundation for the Arts, Sewanee Writers Conference, and Julia and David White Artists Colony; The Kind I'm Likely to Get was named a New York Times notable book of the year.

WRITINGS:

(Editor) The KGB Bar Reader (short stories), William Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.

The Kind I'm Likely to Get (short stories), Quill (New York, NY), 1999.

(Editor and contributor) Dog Culture: Writers on the Character of Canines, Globe Pequot Press (Guilford, CT), 2002.

The Dogs Who Found Me: What I've Learned from Pets Who Were Left Behind, Lyons Press (Guilford, CT), 2006.

Dogs I Have Met: And the People They Found, Lyons Press (Guilford, CT), 2007.

Contributor to Ex-Files. Contributor of fiction and nonfiction to periodicals, including Bark, Bomb, Fence, Flaunt, McSweeney's, Newsday, New York Times Book Review, Salon, San Francisco Chronicle, and Village Voice.

SIDELIGHTS:

Ken Foster told CA: "I think most people who write do it in order to better understand the world around us. We write what we know, but we try to discover and understand the aspects that are mysterious or hidden even in the familiar world. When I began writing The Dogs Who Found Me: What I've Learned from Pets Who Were Left Behind, I knew that there had to be a reason to tell the stories of these abandoned animals that had crossed my path. I had to figure out that their presence meant to my world, and what I had learned through them. But in order to really make those discoveries, I had to go through the work of writing it down."

Foster is the editor of The KGB Bar Reader, a collection of 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, observing 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 noted 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."

In the collection The Kind I'm Likely to Get 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 made special note of Foster's style and tone. "For such a distinctly urban writer, he shows a surprising amount of delicacy," Zacharek commented. "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."

In later writings, Foster relates lessons learned about people through their pets. It began when he adopted a dog from an animal shelter, then another and another. Then he began to notice all the other stray dogs around him, the ones that had not found safe homes. In The Dogs Who Found Me Foster tells the stories of his rescued pets and ruminates on the circumstances that eventually landed them in his home. He writes of the behavioral and health problems that can afflict pets to the point where owners are overwhelmed, of the home situations and human personality flaws can that work against a successful human-animal bond, and of additional problems that can beset animals forced to live on the streets. He also writes of the joy and comfort that such pets can bring into the lives of the folks who honor a commitment to rescue and care for these grateful animals. After the book was published, Foster began to hear from readers who wanted to share their own experiences with pet adoption, and he was prompted to write Dogs I Have Met: And the People They Found. Library Journal contributor Florence Scarinci called this a collection of "well-told, moving stories" about people who change the lives of the pets they rescue and are changed in turn by their animal friends.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, February 1, 2006, Pamela Crossland, review of The Dogs Who Found Me: What I've Learned from Pets Who Were Left Behind, p. 13.

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; August 1, 2007, Florence Scarinci, review of Dogs I Have Met: And the People They Found, p. 108.

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; January 2, 2006, review of The Dogs Who Found Me, p. 49.

San Francisco Chronicle, August 12, 1999, Sam Whiting, "A Book for Wandering Souls" (interview).

ONLINE

Ken Foster Home Page,http://www.ken-foster.com (December 1, 2007).

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