Jonathan Safran FoerS

Who: The extremely cloying and incredibly pretentious lit star is best known as the author of 2002's Everything is Illuminated. He's also the husband of author Nicole Krauss.

Backstory: The son of a PR exec and an antitrust researcher, Foer grew up in what turned out to be the most intellectually fertile split-level in the D.C. suburbs. His early literary efforts at Princeton (he won the creative writing prize four years running) were nurtured by his thesis adviser, Joyce Carol Oates. Following post-graduation stints as a receptionist, morgue assistant, ghostwriter, jewelry salesman, farm sitter(?), archivist and math tutor—or so he claims—he burst onto the scene at 25 with 2002's Everything is Illuminated, which he'd been drafting since he was 20. (Agent Nicole Aragi finagled him a $500,000 advance for it.) With rapturous blurbs from Salman Rushdie, Francine Prose, and John Updike, the book—a tragicomic account of one young man's search for the Ukrainian woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis—was a major hit, and spawned a (albeit critically and commercially disastrous) film version.

His second novel, 2005's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, narrated by a nine-year-old boy who loses his father on Sept. 11th, was also a commercial success. It's since been optioned for the big screen by producer Scott Rudin and with Stephen Daldry attached to direct.

Foer's most recent book, a non-fiction tome entitled Eating Animals, was published in 2009. He's now at work on his third novel and teaches creative writing at NYU on the side.

Of note: Foer's rapid success and pronounced tendency toward preciousness and pretension both in his writing (Extremely Loud ends with a flipbook depicting a body falling from a building) and in interviews (he suggested Alf would have been a better choice than Elijah Wood to play him in the film version of Illuminated), have made him the author literary types love to hate. "Foer isn't just a bad author, he's a vile one," said the New York Press shortly after Foer's debut was published. Adding him to the their list of "Most Loathsome New Yorkers"—which he's been on three times in five years—the paper later fulminated, "Joyce Carol Oates invented this Jewish mother's wet dream in a Princeton laboratory, and now we have to live in a world where eager-to-please frauds like Foer receive unearned comparisons to geniuses like Burgess and Joyce."

Family ties: Other members of the notoriously overachieving Foer clan include older brother Franklin Foer, the editor of The New Republic, and younger brother Joshua Foer, a freelance science writer who nabbed a $1.2 million advance for a memoir about being a memory champion.

Diet: Given he wrote a book that makes the case for vegetarianism, it should come as no surprise that Foer doesn't eat meat and is a loyal PETA supporter.

Personal: Foer is married to novelist Nicole Krauss, author of The History of Love (which bears some very striking resemblances to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) and Man Walks Into a Room. They have two kids and a Great Dane named George. The family live in a $6.75 million Park Slope brownstone, purchased with the help of Krauss's parents, and Jonathan is often spotted at nearby Ozzie's working on his laptop.



Vital Stats


Full Name: Jonathan Safran Foer
Date of Birth: 02/21/1977
Place of Birth: Washington, DC
High School: Georgetown Day School
Undergrad: Princeton University
Residence: Brooklyn (Park Slope)
Filed Under: Books