Morton, Brian 1955-

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Morton, Brian 1955-


Born July 8, 1955, in New York, NY; son of Richard Paul and Tasha Morton. Education: Sarah Lawrence College, B.A., 1978.


Home—New York, NY. Office—1 Mead Way, Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY 10708-5999. Agent—Harvey Klinger, 301 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10019. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer, novelist, and journalist. Dissent, book review editor, 1988—, executive editor, c. 1994-99; New York University, NY, instructor, 1992-94, 1999; 92nd Street YM-YWHA, New York, NY, instructor, 1993-98; New School for Social Research, New York, NY, instructor, 1995-97; Sarah Lawrence College, instructor, 1998—.


Koret Jewish Book award for fiction, 1998; PEN/Faulkner award finalist, 1999; Academy Award, Literature, American Academy of Arts and Letters, 2000; Guggenheim fellow, 2001.


The Dylanist, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.

Starting out in the Evening, Crown (New York, NY), 1998.

A Window across the River, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2003.

Breakable You, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including Dissent, Nation, New Leader, and Lingua Franca.


Brian Morton received praise from critics for the strong female characters in his first two novels. His 1991 debut novel, The Dylanist, follows the travails of Sally Burke, who comes of age after the 1960s and struggles with the lessons of her parents' activist past. She admires her father, a labor union activist, but follows the career path of her mother, an elementary school teacher. All the while she attempts to draw wisdom from the songs of Bob Dylan. Kathy Ingels Helmond, writing in Library Journal, called The Dylanist "a touching first novel" and praised Morton's ability to write from a woman's point of view. Reviewing The Dylanist for Booklist, Eugene Sullivan stated that Morton writes "with grace and ease," though he complained that the central character was too self-absorbed.

Morton's next novel, Starting out in the Evening, was published in 1998 and met with even more lavish praise. The protagonist, Schiller, is an all-but-forgotten writer of four novels who faces declining health and a conviction that his career has been a failure. Adding to his burdens is a middle-aged daughter who lacks focus in her life. He is working on a final novel, but the work is going slowly. Then a newcomer barges into his life. Heather Wolfe is a graduate student who admired Schiller's novels as a youth and now wants to write her graduate thesis on Schiller and his works. The novel tracks the thoughts of both Schiller and Wolfe as they struggle to make sense of their lives. Margaret Flanagan, writing for Booklist, admired Morton's "spare and elegant prose" and referred to the novel as a "poignant and intelligent narrative." William H. Pritchard christened Starting out in the Evening "a novel of high ambitions, though written in a prose that is modestly ingratiating throughout," in his review for the New York Times. Pritchard went on to note: "Starting out in the Evening is a sad story, but its prevailing wit—in a number of senses—works toward affirming and enhancing life."

In his next novel, A Window across the River, Morton tells the story of Nora Howard, a short story writer dissatisfied with her life and suffering from writer's block. As a result, she contacts her old lover, photographer Isaac Mitchell, and rekindles their romance. Issac, however, is having second thoughts about his own career as he has foregone freelance work to become a photo editor at a magazine. As their relationship grows, Nora eventually decides to use Issac in one of her stories, something she knows could be disastrous for their relationship. "The modesty of this novel gracefully offsets the delicacy and insight with which Morton writes about the junction of love and art," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor. Carol Haggas, writing in Booklist, called A Window across the River, "an intriguing look at the nature of love and the need for acceptance."

Breakable You, Morton's fourth novel, features Adam Weller, a man of dubious moral character, as evidenced by his leaving his wife for his mistress. When an old friend dies, Morton discovers the friend's unpublished manuscript and has the book published as his own. The plot also includes Adam's wife, who is overweight and depressed, and his daughter, who is having a strongly sexual relationship with an Arab American with a tragedy in his background. Joanne Wilkinson, writing in Booklist noted that, through the stories of these three family members, the author "poignantly speaks to the notion of loyalty—to the past and to one's sense of self." A Kirkus Reviews contributor commented: "Precisely observed characters, keen prose and a sure sense of how we simultaneously complicate and survive our lives make this one something special."



Booklist, January 1, 1998, Margaret Flanagan, review of Starting out in the Evening, p. 778; September 15, 1991, Eugene Sullivan, review of The Dylanist, p. 121; September 1, 2003, Carol Haggas, review of A Window across the River, p. 58; July 1, 2006, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Breakable You, p. 31.

Books, October 8, 2006, Art Winslow, "Characters Attempting to Untangle Matters of Love, Loss and Self-Renewal," review of Breakable You, p. 4.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2003, review of A Window across the River, p. 930; July 1, 2006, review of Breakable You, p. 652.

Library Journal, August, 1991, Kathy Ingels Helmond, review of The Dylanist, p. 146; October 1, 1997, review of Starting out in the Evening, p. 124; September 1, 2003, Maureen Neville, review of A Window across the River, p. 209.

Nation, December 30, 1991, review of The Dylanist, p. 862.

New York Times Book Review, January 18, 1998, William H. Pritchard, review of Starting out in the Evening, p. 11; September 28, 2003, Janice P. Nimura, "The Madness of Art," review of A Window across the River, p. 16; October 1, 2006, Ligaya Mishan, "City of Grief," review of Breakable You, p. 21.

Publishers Weekly, September 29, 1997, review of Starting out in the Evening, p. 62; August 4, 2003, review of A Window across the River, p. 54; December 13, 2004, John F. Baker, "A New Novel by Brian Morton Was Signed for Harcourt by Ann Patty in a Six-figure Deal for North American Rights," p. 12; June 26, 2006, review of Breakable You, p. 27.

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Morton, Brian 1955-

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