My life

  • 1963
    I was born February 27 in Redwood City, California, the son of Milton William Taylor, a microbiologist and a Scottish Jew of Lithuanian descent, and Miriam Reifer, a weaver originally from Czernowitz (now Chernivtsi, Ukraine). (Her ancestors include Rabbi Yehuda Kahana of Sziget and Yehezkiel Landau of Prague, who was said to be descended from the 13th-century scholar Rashi, who was said to be descended from King Solomon.) My parents had met and married in Israel; when I was born they planned to move back there, so gave me a Hebrew name and spoke to me in Hebrew.
  • 1964
  • 1965
    My brother Jonathan was born.
  • 1966
  • 1967
    My family moved to Bloomington, Indiana.
  • 1968
  • 1969
  • 1970
  • 1971
  • 1972
  • 1973
  • 1974
  • 1975
  • 1976
  • 1977
  • 1978
  • 1979
  • 1980
  • 1981
    I graduated from Bloomington High School North as president of the senior class and the French club and vice-president of the honor society, if memory serves.
  • 1982
  • 1983
  • 1984
  • 1985
    I completed a novella, The Man Who Could Do Anything, under the guidance of Mary Morris, the rare creative writing teacher who was willing to tell her students (especially myself) to tear up what they had written and start over. I graduated from Princeton University summa cum laude, having majored in politics. I spent the summer learning Hebrew in Tiberias, Israel, and then moved to an impoverished development town, Or Aqiva, where I worked as a volunteer, teaching music to children and in other community services.
  • 1986
    I moved to Iowa City to begin studying American Studies at the University of Iowa. I can honestly say that this was the biggest mistake I have ever made, and that the next two years were my most miserable.
  • 1987
    I wrote my first novel, The Happy Hunting Grounds, in six days, and spent a few months revising it. Pinckney Benedict and Madison Smartt Bell told me they liked it and the latter tried to help me to get it published. I gave up after a while. I also taught myself to play guitar and started writing songs, which I recorded on cassette tapes and sent to friends.
  • 1988
    I obtained my master's degree with a thesis on the photographs of Robert Frank. I moved to Riverdale, in the Bronx, with my girlfriend, a German translator; we broke up quite soon thereafter and I moved to Brooklyn. I got my first publishing job working for John Wiley & Sons as an administrative assistant. I wrote my second novel, The Land of Nod, which also remains unpublished.
  • 1989
    I got a job as assistant editor at Da Capo Press; over the years I would become editor and then senior editor.
  • 1990
    It was probably this year that I wrote my third novel, entitled Lovers Leap, Losers Weep. After one close friend read it, my opinion of it became so low I didn't even try to get it published.
  • 1991
  • 1992
    Volunteering for GMHC, I became a "buddy" to people with AIDS. After my first "client," Ivan, died, I wrote and recorded a set of twelve songs dedicated to him called Cold Water Sheets. This was my seventh or eighth cassette, and my last--I have written no songs since. I had two more buddies, though, Lionel and Steve, both of whom eventually passed away.
  • 1993
    I think it was this year that a passionate epistolary romance with a Chicago-based translator developed from a chance meeting in June; after several cross-country visits, it ended in a broken heart or two on New Year's Day.
  • 1994
  • 1995
    At a Halloween party in the department of comparative literature at NYU I met my future wife, Karen Duys, who currently teaches literature at St. Francis University in Joliet, Illinois.
  • 1996
    On Halloween, I proposed.
  • 1997
    And at noon on Halloween, our daughter Thalia was born. But before that, Karen obtained her Ph.D., we got married (May 11, Mother's Day), and moved to Chicago (in August). I left Da Capo Press and took a few months off.
  • 1998
    In January I became senior editor at Chicago Review Press and was put in charge of reviving two dormant imprints, A Cappella and Lawrence Hill Books. I have been acquiring books there ever since.
  • 1999
    We bought a cottage built in 1888 as one of the "Rosalie Villas" on the 5700 block of Harper Avenue in Hyde Park, nicknamed "the Halloween block" because of a longstanding tradition of lavish house-decorating and candy-giving on that day. Lawrence Hill Books published my first books: I selected, edited, and annotated two thick volumes of classic American slave narratives, entitled I Was Born a Slave, to which Charles Johnson provided a foreword; and I abridged, adapted, and supplemented Philip S. Foner's five-volume Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass and published it in one volume as Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings.
  • 2000
  • 2001
    My son Jacky (whose real name is Jacob Enric) was born on July 23.
  • 2002
    A Cappella published The Future of Jazz, an extended conversation among ten jazz critics, which I initiated and edited, and The Cartoon Music Book, which I coedited with Daniel Goldmark.
  • 2003
    My essay "Toward an Aesthetic of Music for Poker" appeared in A Friendly Game of Poker, edited by Jake Austen.
  • 2004
    My biographical essay "William Grimes" was included in African American Lives, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham.
  • 2005
    Lawrence Hill Books published Growing Up in Slavery: Stories of Young Slaves as Told By Themselves, which I edited.
  • 2006
    I finished my fourth and by far my longest novel, Backland, for which my agent was unable to find a publisher.
  • 2007
    W. W. Norton (in the U.S.) and Faber & Faber (in the U.K.) published a book I wrote with Hugh Barker entitled Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music. You can learn all about it at www.fakingit.typepad.com. Also The Antioch Review published my poem "Lunar Impact" and The Guardian published my comic essay "Native American Reservations" (see www.guardian.co.uk/music/2007/jul/06/popandrock.worldmusic).
  • 2008
    "Wrong Notes," a piece cowritten by Hugh and myself, appeared in TimeOut's 1000 Songs to Change Your Life.
  • 2009
    My essay "Funk's Death Trip" was published in Da Capo's Best Music Writing 2009, edited by Greil Marcus.
  • 2010
    I completed my fifth novel, The Bird Lovers, for which, once again, I was unable to find a publisher.
  • 2011
  • 2012
    In August W. W. Norton published Darkest America: Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-Hop, which I cowrote with Jake Austen. I also completed a book of about a hundred Neruda-inspired short poems entitled Lost Trains Leave No Tracks.
  • 2013
    My family and I went to Bolivia in July and stayed there for about thirteen months. Our lives changed.
  • 2014
  • 2015

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