Gaffney, Elizabeth M(allory) 1966–

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GAFFNEY, Elizabeth M(allory) 1966–

PERSONAL: Born December 22, 1966, in New York, NY; daughter of Richard (a painter) and Ann (a graphic designer) Gaffney; married Alexis David Boro, July 15, 1995. Education: Vassar College, B.A., 1988; Brooklyn College, M.F.A., 1997. Politics: Democrat.

ADDRESSES: Home—Brooklyn, NY. Agent—Darhansoff, Verrill, Feldman, 236 W. 26th St. New York, NY 10001.

CAREER: Editor and author. Paris Review, New York, NY, member of editorial staff, 1988–93, managing editor, 1993–95, editor-at-large, 1995–2004, advisory editor, 2004–05; writing instructor at New York University. Resident/fellow at MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, NH, 1996 and 1997; Blue Mountain Center, NY, 1999; and Yaddo, 2000, 2001, and 2004.

MEMBER: PEN, Phi Beta Kappa.


(Translator) Zoe Jenny, The Pollen Room (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.

(Translator) Ika Hugel-Marshall, Invisible Woman: Growing up Black in Germany, 2000.

(Translator) Thomas Hettche, The Arbogast Case, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (New York, NY), 2003.

Metropolis (novel), Random House (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor of short stories to literary journals, including Mississippi Review, Brooklyn Review, North American Review, Colorado Review, Epiphany, and Reading Room.

SIDELIGHTS: Elizabeth M. Gaffney has worked as a writer, editor, educator, and translator. After graduating from Vassar College in 1988, she began working on the editorial staff at the quarterly literary magazine Paris Review. She has held several positions there, including managing and advisory editor. Gaffney also teaches writing at New York University and has led writing seminars through professional organizations. In addition to her work on longer book projects, Gaffney is the author of many short fiction pieces, and in 2005 she published her first novel, Metropolis.

Gaffney first began working on novels as a translator, adapting Zoe Jenny's The Pollen Room, Ika Hugel-Marshall' Invisible Woman: Growing up Black in Germany, and Thomas Hettche's The Arbogast Case for English-speaking readers. In a number of reviews of this last work, critics praised Gaffney's translation skills. New York Times Book Review contributor Charles Wilson, for instance, called her work a "seamless translation."

Gaffney' first original work of fiction, Metropolis, is set in 1860s New York City. German immigrant Frank Harris fumbles through a series of jobs before getting involved with the Irish street gang the Whyos. He falls in love with pickpocket and moll Beatrice O'Gamhna, a member of the Whyos' female branch, the Why Nots. Harris finds jobs working on the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge and the city sewer system. Together he and O'Gamhna navigate encounters with the murderer Luther Undertoe and mob bosses Johnny and Meg Dolan.

Many critics offered praise for Metropolis, some acknowledging Gaffney's ability to mix actual history with a compelling fictional storyline. "The novel's well-researched historical background, enlivened by descriptions of the criminal underworld and the offbeat love story, should ensure wide interest," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor. Other reviewers highlighted the author's thoughtful character development. "Given its array of irresistibly colorful characters, gritty romance, and labyrinthine plot, Gaffney's tale of old New York is pure bliss," concluded Donna Seaman in Booklist.

Gaffney told CA: "My influences run from Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, Henry James, George Sand, and Virginia Woolf to Fritz Lang and Alfred Hitchcock, to Thomas Pynchon, Philip K. Dick, Andrea Barrett, and Margaret Atwood. Almost all my ideas for writing come to me while I'm walking around New York City by myself."



Booklist, January 1, 2005, Donna Seaman, review of Metropolis, p. 814.

Denver Post, December 7, 2003, Roger K. Miller, review of The Arbogast Case, p. 13.

Entertainment Weekly, March 11, 2005, Gilbert Cruz, review of Metropolis, p. 108.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2003, review of The Arbogast Case, p. 1145; January 15, 2005, review of Metropolis, p. 70.

Library Journal, January 1, 2005, Eleanor J. Bader, review of Metropolis, p. 95.

Newsweek, March 7, 2005, Andrew Romano, review of Metropolis, p. 55.

New York Times, February 28, 2005, Janet Maslin, review of Metropolis, p. 8.

New York Times Book Review, June 27, 1999, Jenny McPhee, review of The Pollen Room, p. 33; December 21, 2003, Charles Wilson, review of The Arbogast Case, p. 13.

Publishers Weekly, February 10, 2003, John F. Baker, "Epic New York Novel for Random," p. 56; September 29, 2003, review of The Arbogast Case, p. 42; December 20, 2004, review of Metropolis, p. 34.

Washington Post, December 16, 2003, Chris Lehmann, review of The Arbogast Case, p. 4.


Elizabeth Gaffney Home Page, (March 8, 2005).

New York University Web site, (March 8, 2005), "Elizabeth Gaffney."