Married Elaine Beery (an interior designer); children: a son. Education: Bennington College, graduated 1982.
Home—Brooklyn, NY. Office—Facts on File News Services, 512 7th Ave., 22nd Fl., New York, NY 10018.
Writer and editor. Facts on File (publisher), New York, NY, editor, 1985—. Also coconceived, directed, and produced Gulf Bowl, an internationally broadcast video collage commentary on network television's coverage of the Persian Gulf Crisis, c. 1999.
The American Book of the Dead: The Definitive Grateful Dead Encyclopedia, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
(Coauthor) Return of the Hip Messiah (play), produced in Chicago at the Second City Theatre, 1999.
Dig Infinity! The Life and Art of Lord Buckley, Welcome Rain Publishers (New York, NY), 2002.
Keys to the Rain: The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, Watson-Guptill Publications (New York, NY), 2004.
Also author of voice-over narrative for documentary film Ron Mann's Mighty Dark to Travel: A Tribute to Bill Monroe and writer/consultant on documentary film Ron Mann's Tales of the Rat Fink; poetry published in periodicals, including the Minneapolis Review of Baseball and Elysian Fields Quarterly.
America in Space: Pioneers or Aggressors?, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1986.
Fighting Terrorism: Negotiation or Retaliation?, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1986.
Drugs in America: Crisis or Hysteria?, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1986.
Latin America: Our Volatile Neighbors, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1987.
AIDS: Plague or Panic?, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1988.
The Iran-Contra Arms Scandal: Foreign Policy Disaster, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1988.
Crime in America: The War at Home, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1988.
Poverty in America: The Forgotten Millions, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1989.
Our Poisoned Planet: Can We Save It?, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1989.
Gorbachev's Glasnost: Red Star Rising, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1989.
Communism: The Final Crisis?, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1990.
Sports in America: Paradise Lost?, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1990.
The Arts & Media in America: Freedom or Censorship?, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1991.
America's Children: New Generation, New Troubles, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1991.
Can America Compete?, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1992.
America's Minorities and the Multicultural Debate, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1992.
America's Health Care Crisis, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1993.
Abortion: Choice & Conflict, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1993.
The Plight of the American City, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1994.
Sexual Politics in America, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1994.
Also assistant editor for Abortion: The Continuing Controversy, edited by Carol C. Collins, Facts on File, 1984.
A longtime editor and writer, Oliver Trager has written several books focusing on the works of popular modern artists, primarily in the field of music. In The American Book of the Dead: The Definitive Grateful Dead Encyclopedia, Trager provides a wide range of information on the Grateful Dead band within an encyclopedic format. In addition to a wealth of information about the actual members of the band, including biographies of each band member, the author includes biographies of people who influenced the band, as well as song origins, other bands the Grateful Dead performed with, and reviews of the Grateful Dead's various musical releases. Pointing out that he is not a "Dead Head," the name given to the near-fanatical group of the band's admirers, Gregory Tozian, writing on the Organica Web site, noted two primary reasons why he thought the book deserves praise: "First of all, Trager writes well—so much better than the average ‘music writer.’ Second, there are dozens and dozens of fascinating entries on people and their creations that, while they may have influenced the Dead in some manner, are plenty interesting in their own right." A contributor to Popular Music and Society commented that "the essays provide a rich overview of the world of Grateful Dead scholarship."
Dig Infinity! The Life and Art of Lord Buckley is a biography of the entertainer who became widely known in the 1950s as a "hipster" comic monologist. Trager bases his biography on a variety of sources, including interviews with friends, as well as news articles, various reviews, and Buckley's own writings. The author also includes conversations with the numerous modern comedians that Lord Buckley influenced, including Robin Williams. In a review of Dig Infinity! in the Library Journal, William Gargan noted that the author "creates an impressionistic but detailed portrait of Buckley's life and times." Douglas Cruickshank wrote on Salon.com that Trager has "formidable skills as a researcher." Cruickshank also noted: "The new biography of the Hip Messiah gives us a quintessentially American character worthy of a Mark Twain novel."
Trager turns his attention to the legendary folk-turned-rock musician Bob Dylan in his book Keys to the Rain: The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. Much like Trager's earlier work The American Book of the Dead, Keys to the Rain provides an encyclopedic look at Dylan's life and art, including an extensive number of biographical sketches of those who have worked and associated with Dylan over his forty-plus-year career. In addition to reviews of all of Dylan's musical recordings up to the release of the book, the author includes lists of musical tracks and musicians and extensive critical analysis of Dylan's works. James Sutcliffe, writing on the Dartmouth Contemporary Web site, noted: "The loose and relaxed style of Odds and Ends [a Dylan song] typifies Trager's writing because he never takes his task too seriously but is equally determined to provide relevant and fascinating information about the songs." A Bookwatch contributor wrote: "It doesn't get any better—or more ‘definitive’—than this."
Trager told CA: "Though I was not a particularly confident (or accomplished) student in my early years, the coaxing of a good eighth-grade teacher and the opportunity to edit my summer camp newspaper began to open certain doors of perception and possibility. As I have grown and expanded as a journalist and author, the classics, cinema, comic books, and long walks seem to awaken my muse.
"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is that the creative process is as mysterious as anything conjured by organized religion.
"Dig Infinity! The Life and Art of Lord Buckley will always be my favorite book, as it, unlike my encyclopedias, allowed for both a feet-on-the-ground personal odyssey, which continues to this day, and gave long overdue acklowedgement to Lord Buckley—a great American, world citizen, and artist.
"If my books lead my readers to search out what it is I write about and experience even a small measure of epiphany, then I am pleased."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 15, 1997, Mike Tribby, review of The American Book of the Dead: The Definitive Grateful Dead Encyclopedia, p. 377; July, 2001, Jack Helbig, review of Dig Infinity! The Life and Art of Lord Buckley, p. 1968.
Bookwatch, January, 2005, review of Keys to the Rain: The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia.
Entertainment Weekly, December 5, 1997, Tom Sinclair, review of The American Book of the Dead, p. 82.
Library Journal, August, 2001, William Gargan, review of Dig Infinity!, p. 114; November 15, 2004, Mirela Roncevic, review of Keys to the Rain, p. 86.
Popular Music and Society, fall-winter, 2001, review of The American Book of the Dead, p. 189.
Publishers Weekly, July 30, 2001, review of Dig Infinity!, p. 77.
Dartmouth Contemporary, http://www.dartmouth.edu/˜thedc/ (April 2, 2007), James Sutcliffe, review of Keys to the Rain.
Grateful Dead Time Capsule,http://www.dead101.com/ (April 2, 2007), review of The American Book of the Dead.
Organica,http://www.organicanews.com/news/ (April 2, 2007), Gregory Tozian, review of The American Book of the Dead.
Poetry: About.com,http://poetry.about.com/ (November 6, 2002), Bob Holman, review of Dig Infinity!
Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (June 26, 2002), Douglas Cruickshank, review of Dig Infinity!
Well,http://www.well.com/ (April 2, 2007), Howard Levine, "Inkwell: Authors and Artists: Topic 245: Oliver Trager, ‘Keys to the Rain.’"