Mendelsohn, Daniel 1960–

views updated

Mendelsohn, Daniel 1960–

(Daniel Adam Mendelsohn)

PERSONAL: Born 1960; son of Jay Mendelsohn and Marlene Jaeger. Education: University of Virginia, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1982; Princeton University, M.A., 1989, Ph.D., 1994. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Swimming.

ADDRESSES: HomeNew York, NY; fax: 212-724-4042; Trenton, NJ. Office—Faculty of Humanities, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504. Agent—Lydia Wills, Paradigm Agency, 19 W. 44th St., Ste. 1410, New York, NY 10036. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: International Artists' Management, New York, NY, associate director, 1982–85; Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJ, question writer, 1990–94; Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, lecturer in classics, 1994–2002; Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, Charles Ranlett Flint Professor of Humanities, 2006–. New York University, writer in residence at Alexander Onassis Center for Modern Greek Studies, 1995–96; Princeton University, writer in residence at Center for Hellenic Studies, 1999; Columbia University, visiting lecturer, 1999–2000; guest lecturer at other institutions, including Hunter College of the City University of New York, Cornell University, and University of Michigan; guest on media programs; gives readings from his works.

MEMBER: PEN American Center, American Philosophical Society, National Book Critics Circle, American Philological Association, Modern Greek Studies Association, Phi Beta Kappa.

AWARDS, HONORS: Named among best books of the year, Los Angeles Times, and notable books of the year, New York Times, both for The Elusive Embrace: Desire and the Riddle of Identity; citation for excellence in reviewing, National Book Critics Circle, 2001; George Jean Nathan Prize for Dramatic Criticism, 2002; Guggenheim fellowship, 2005–06.


The Elusive Embrace: Desire and the Riddle of Identity, Knopf (New York, NY), 1999.

Gender and the City in Euripides' Political Plays, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.

Work represented in anthologies, including The Best American Travel Writing; The Mrs. Dalloway Reader; Quick Studies: The Best of Lingua Franca; and Best American Humor. Book critic, New York magazine, 2000–02. Contributor of more than 150 articles and reviews to magazines and newspapers, including New York Review of Books, Classical Journal, New Yorker, Esquire, Paris Review, Hudson Review, Classical and Modern Literature, New York Observer, and the Internet periodical Salon. Contributing editor, Travel and Leisure, 2003–.

SIDELIGHTS: Daniel Mendelsohn's book The Elusive Embrace: Desire and the Riddle of Identity, a memoir comprised of five essays, explores Mendelsohn's family history, his evolving sexual identity as a boy in Long Island, and his life as a gay man. He weaves references to Latin, Greek, and Hebrew literature and mythology into his narrative.

Reviewing The Elusive Embrace in Library Journal, contributor Robert W. Melton commented that Mendelsohn "unifies his own paradoxes by his openness to life's experiences and his beautiful prose." Robert Gottlieb noted in Interview that "in his hotly anticipated memoir … Mendelsohn emerges as a rare—and ever so welcome—new voice, weaving high and low in a brilliant tale of personal discovery." Dubbing the work "brainy and beautiful," Newsweek critic David Ansen reported that reading Mendelsohn's prose was akin to "following an original mind making connections and discoveries previously unarticulated," and praised the author's use of classic references "refreshingly free of the academic."

Booklist reviewer Ray Olson noted that in addition to being Mendelsohn's story, The Elusive Embrace is about "conflicting sources of identity, principally his immigrant grandparents and their family stories." Jonathan Lear wrote in the New York Times Book Review that in exposing his family's myth, Mendelsohn "establishes a new myth for himself: that of a gay, Jewish Oedipus, willing to pursue the meaning of his oracle, wherever it may lead. That is, ultimately, what this charming apercu-filled memoir is: a personal myth about undoing family myths."

Mendelsohn once told CA: "I began writing very early, at the age of about eight or nine—journals, stories, poems, that kind of thing; I was, too, an omnivorous reader from a very early age. Quite early on, certainly by the time I was a freshman in college, I became very interested in criticism. At that time, one could benefit a great deal, as a budding reader and writer, from the presence of people like Pauline Kael, Helen Vendler, Andrew Porter, and Gore Vidal in the pages of more or less mainstream publications, and I suppose that their voices are the voices I was subsequently influenced by as I myself began writing as a critic. Certainly that influence had a lot to do with my decision to leave academe for a career as a critic and writer. With these models, it didn't occur to me that one couldn't write criticism at a high level of expertise for general audiences. I have never 'studied' writing formally—never taken classes or courses—and still believe the only way to learn to write is to read constantly. As far as my 'writing process' goes, I write early in the day, every day. I'm usually up by six o'clock and like to get right to work, writing whatever it happens to be that I'm working on until early afternoon. I save reading and research for later in the day, and I try not to work at all in the evening, unless there's a crushing deadline."



Mendelsohn, Daniel, The Elusive Embrace: Desire and the Riddle of Identity, Knopf (New York, NY), 1999.


Booklist, June 1, 1999, Ray Olson, review of The Elusive Embrace: Desire and the Riddle of Identity, p. 1783.

Interview, June, 1999, interview by Robert Gottlieb, p. 60.

Library Journal, June 15, 1999, Robert W. Melton, review of The Elusive Embrace, p. 95.

Newsweek, June 21, 1999, David Ansen, "Double Life: An Elegant Meditation," p. 75.

New York Observer, June 14, 1999, Glen Bowersock, "GWM Seeks Classical Greece, Sex, Jewish Roots, Paternity."

New York Times Book Review, July 4, 1999, Jonathan Lear, "The Geography of Desire," p. 7.

Publishers Weekly, April 19, 1999, review of The Elusive Embrace, p. 48.

About this article

Mendelsohn, Daniel 1960–

Updated About content Print Article