Theisen, Gordon

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Theisen, Gordon

PERSONAL: Born in Queens, NY; married; children: one son. Education: State University of New York at Binghamton, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Home— Carrboro, NC.

CAREER: Writer. Worked variously as a landscaper, dishwasher, barback, cashier, library clerk, construction worker, telemarketer, taxi driver, teacher, and proofreader.


(With John Craddock) The Buzz on Golf, Lebhar-Friedman Books (New York, NY), 2001.

The Buzz on Gambling, Lebhar-Friedman Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Staying Up Much Too Late: Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” and the Dark Side of the American Psyche, T. Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Writer of single-sheet guides for the History Channel.

SIDELIGHTS: Gordon Theisen’s Staying Up Much Too Late: Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” and the Dark Side of the American Psyche is a study of the early 1940s Hopper painting of a New York diner, late at night and nearly empty but for a couple, a single man sitting alone, and the worker behind the counter. Hopper (1882-1967), whose themes most often represent urban isolation, has said that he feels the painting represents the loneliness of a big city. The painting hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Theisen sees more, however, including his suggestion that the customers may be planning to rob the diner. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that he refers to the wide-screen proportions of the painting, although that film technology had yet to be invented. The reviewer felt that “some readers may conclude that Nighthawks is better off letting its powerful imagery speak for itself.” A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that Theisen provides histories of not only diners, but of coffee, cigars, and cigarettes, which he feels are relevant to the painting. He also alludes to the plots of films, such as The Asphalt Jungle and Taxi Driver. The reviewer wrote that Theisen “makes some worthwhile points when discussing Hopper and film noir, a genre the artist apparently admired,” but concluded by describing the book as being “an overreaching microanalysis.”

In reviewing Staying Up Much Too Late for Seven Oaks Online, George Fetherling commented that Theisen uses the painting to explore biblical thinking, “the reckless optimism of the New Testament and the depressive apocalyptic vision of the Old.” He notes that Hopper, who was a descendant of the Puritans, “was torn between these extremes and his work was to some extent a means for him to negotiate a middle path.”



Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2006, review of Staying Up Much Too Late: Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” and the Dark Side of the American Psyche, p. 512.

Publishers Weekly, May 22, 2006, review of Staying Up Much Too Late, p. 46.


Seven Oaks Online, (December 26, 2006), George Fetherling, review of Staying Up Much Too Late.*