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Markovits, Benjamin 1973–

Markovits, Benjamin 1973–

PERSONAL:

Born 1973, in CA; immigrated to England; married; wife's name Caroline; children: Gwen. Education: Attended Yale University.

ADDRESSES:

Home—London, England.

CAREER:

Writer. Played professional basketball in Germany.

WRITINGS:

The Syme Papers (novel), Faber & Faber (London, England), 2004.

Fathers and Daughters (novel), W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2005, published as Either Side of Winter, Faber & Faber (London, England), 2005.

Imposture, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2007.

SIDELIGHTS:

Benjamin Markovits was born in California and grew up in Texas, London, England, and Berlin, Germany. He is the son of two lawyers, including a father who collected Victoriana and who introduced his children to antiques. The family moved to England when Markovits was fourteen, but he attended college at Yale. He decided on a career in sports, however, and left academia to play professional basketball in Germany.

Markovits wrote The Syme Papers while working in an ice-cream parlor in Oxford. It is the story of two men, Samuel Highgate Syme, an eighteenth-century American geologist whose early findings on continental drift were never recognized, and his biographer, historian Douglas Pitt, who a century later would bring them to light within the scientific community. If Pitt is successful, he will get tenure, prevent his wife from leaving him, and perhaps gain the respect of his sons. He is hopeful that there is some truth in Syme's idea that the earth is a hollow sphere inside which concentric spheres rotate, but he mistakenly relies on the accounts of Friedrich Muller, or "Phiddy," whose opinions may have been influenced by his sexual feelings for Syme. Pitt is unable to prove his case and finally comes to terms with his failure.

Fathers and Daughters consists of four linked novellas featuring the faculty and students at an elite New York school. In each case, Markovits explores the relationships between the fathers and their daughters.

Imposture is a story based on fact. In 1816, at a villa at Lake Geneva, Byron challenged his guests to each write a frightening tale. The guests included Percy Shelley and Mary Godwin (later Shelley), a teen at the time. She won with a story that would be published as Frankenstein, but another idea had implications nearly as great. Byron's underachieving physician, John Polidori, created "The Vampyre," a short story that was later published and attributed to Byron and later became the inspiration for the stories featuring Count Dracula. Markovits begins the novel in 1819, with Polidori in London, having been dismissed by Byron, who has fled England following his divorce and the rumor that he and his half-sister had been sexually involved. Because he bears a strong resemblance to the man who has stolen his work, Polidori is mistaken for Byron by Eliza, who says they have previously met. The two fall in love, without Eliza learning the truth.

New Statesman reviewer Simon Baker speculated as to who the greater bloodsucker might be—Byron for stealing Polidori's work or Polidori for using Byron's identity to win a woman. Baker concluded that Markovits "leaves us mercifully free of neat conclusions about Polidori, who emerges as a complex, conflicted character. In spite of his deceit (which leads, predictably, to disaster) and his envy, he must surely, in the end, capture our sympathy because he wants the impossible: he wants, above all things, to be Byron."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 15, 2005, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Fathers and Daughters, p. 31; March 1, 2007, Allison Block, review of Imposture, p. 63.

Economist, January 13, 2007, review of Imposture, p. 76.

Financial Times, January 13, 2007, Jonathan Derbyshire, review of Imposture, p. 33.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2005, review of Fathers and Daughters, p. 808; March 1, 2007, review of Imposture, p. 189.

Library Journal, October 1, 2005, David A. Berona, review of Fathers and Daughters, p. 68; May 15, 2007, Cynthia Johnson, review of Imposture, p. 81.

New Statesman, March 8, 2004, Jonathan Heawood, review of The Syme Papers, p. 55; January 15, 2007, Simon Baker, review of Imposture, p. 58.

New York Times Book Review, November 6, 2005, Bliss Broyard, review of Fathers and Daughters, p. 15; May 13, 2007, Jess Row, review of Imposture, p. 9.

Publishers Weekly, September 12, 2005, review of Fathers and Daughters, p. 41; February 5, 2007, review of Imposture, p. 36.

ONLINE

Agony Column,http://trashotron.com/agony/ (December 4, 2004), Katie Dean, review of The Syme Papers.

Guardian Unlimited,http://www.guardian.co.uk/ (January 13, 2007), Andrew Motion, review of Imposture.

Independent Online,http://www.independent.co.uk/ (January 12, 2007), Christina Patterson, "Benjamin Markovits: Leaps in the Dark," interview.

Observer, http://www.observer.guardian.co.uk/ (January 7, 2007), Kirsty Gunn, review of Imposture.

Reading Group Guides,http://www.readinggroupguides.com/ (September 30, 2007), "A Conversation with Benjamin Markovits."

Scotland on Sunday,http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/ (January 7, 2007), Stuart Kelly, review of Imposture.

Sunday Times,http://www.sunday-times.co.uk (January 21, 2007), John Spurling, review of Imposture.

Telegraph Online,http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ (January 14, 2007), Alastair Sooke, review of Imposture.

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