For Father’s Day, 9 famous writer dads and their awesome authorial offspring
While some dads were busy tossing the ball around with their kids, these literary fathers instilled a love of literature into their children — a love so deep, in fact, that they followed in their father’s footsteps to become writers themselves. For Father’s Day, a sampler of literary lineage:
Writer dad: Kingsley Amis
- His first published novel, the comedic “Lucky Jim,” is also his most famous; it’s a go-to example of the campus novel, and British-as-can-be.
- Amis clearly knew his way around a bottle. A memorable description of a hangover, from “Lucky Jim:” “The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again."
- Start with: “Lucky Jim” or “Everyday Drinking.”
Writer kid: Martin Amis
- Twice shortlisted for the Booker Prize, in 2008 he took 19th place on the Times list of 50 greatest British writers since 1945. (His dad came in 9th.)
- Amis is a real love-him or hate-him writer known for his controversial, eyebrow-raising commentary and sharp tongue. From his first novel, the comedic “The Rachel Papers:” “Surely, nice things are dull, and nasty things are funny. The nastier a thing is, the funnier it gets.”
- Start with: “Money: A Suicide Note.”
John Cheever (born 1912, died 1982) was a 20th century literary giant. His daughter Susan Cheever became a prolific and formidable author in her own right.
Writer dad: John Cheever
- Dubbed the “Chekhov of the Suburbs,” Cheever is perhaps best known for his short fiction, but he won the National Book Award in 1958 for his novel “The Wapshot Chronicle.”
- “Mad Men” fans take note: Matthew Weiner told the Paris Review that Cheever’s work was a big inspiration for the show — “Weiner begins every season by rereading John Cheever’s preface to his ‘Collected Stories’."
- Start with: “The Enormous Radio,” “Goodbye my Brother” and “The Swimmer,” which inspired the 1968 cult classic film starring Burt Lancaster.
Writer kid: Susan Cheever
- Cheever has written both fiction and nonfiction, including a book about her dad, “Home Before Dark: A Biographical Memoir of John Cheever.”
- She’s also written prolifically about addiction; titles include "Note Found in a Bottle: My Life As a Drinker," "My Name Is Bill. Bill Wilson: His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous" and "Drinking in America: Our Secret History."
- Start with: This Vanity Fair essay in which Cheever remembers how E.E.Cummings, of whom she wrote a biography, “rocked her teenage world.”
William F. Buckley (born 1925, died 2008) was a conservative icon and founder of the magazine the National Review. His son Christopher (born 1952) became a writer with a keen eye for political satire.
Writer dad: William F. Buckley
- Is there a more infamous conservative commentator? (If you’ve never heard of him, he’s kind of the
Rush Limbaughof your father’s generation.)
- Need proof? His second book, co-written with L. Brent Bozell, was titled “McCarthy and His Enemies.” In a 1954 review, the New York Times called it “a bald, dedicated apologia for McCarthyism.”
- Start with: “God and Man at Yale,” the book that launched his career.
Writer kid: Christopher Buckley
- Considering his lineage, it may come as a surprise (or none at all) that Buckley grew up to write humor and satire, including the book “Little Green Men,” which sends up a Beltway talk-show host.
- His book “Thank You For Smoking,” about Beltway lobbyists, was made into a film directed by
- Start with: his presidential endorsement in the Daily Beast titled “Sorry, Dad, I’m Voting for Obama,” which proves you’re never too old to rebel.
Literary critic Anatole Broyard (born 1920, died 1990) kept his black heritage secret. His daughter Bliss wrote a book about finding out.
Writer dad: Anatole Broyard
- A famed New York Times literary critic, Broyard entered the literary conversation once again after his death for having kept his black identity hidden for most of his life.
- Broyard met a number of well-known writers in post-WWII New York, including Anais Nin, of whom he wrote: "Her lipstick was precise, her eyebrows shaved off and penciled in, giving the impression that she had written her own face."
- Start with: “Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir.”
Writer kid: Bliss Broyard
- In “One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life — a Story of Race and Family Secrets,” Broyard writes about reckoning with her father’s choice and uncovering her family history.
- The shadow of a writer-father can loom long, or perhaps serve as inspiration. Broyard’s first book, “My Father, Dancing,” is a collection of stories about fathers and daughters.
- Start with: The memoir “One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life — a Story of Race and Family Secrets.”
Joseph Heller (born 1923, died 1999) is best known for his war satire “Catch-22,” which sold 10 million copies in his lifetime. His daughter Erica’s memoir dishes about what it was like growing up with a literary lion.
Writer dad: Joseph Heller
- Fun fact: Heller actually coined the now-ubiquitous term “Catch-22” with his novel.
- A World War II veteran, Heller flew 60 bombing missions between May and October 1944. From “Catch-22”: “Yossarian was a lead bombardier who had been demoted because he no longer gave a damn whether he missed or not. He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt, and his only mission each time he went up was to come down alive.”
- Start with: the posthumous “Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man.” Dare to be different.
Writer kid: Erica Heller
- Heller’s memoir follows the real-life ripples of her father’s first novel’s success; an L.A. times review hailed it as "all a reader needs to get the feel for the man who wrote, and lived with having written, ‘Catch-22’."
- After reading the manuscript for her father’s second novel, “Something Happened,” Heller wrote that she felt stung by a character she assumed was based on her. Her father’s reply, “What makes you think you’re interesting enough to write about?”
- Start with: “Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller Was Dad, the Apthorp Was Home, and Life Was a Catch-22.”
In his plays, Arthur Miller (born 1915, died 2005) dramatized the anxieties of the American middle class. His daughter Rebecca has penned both novels and screenplays that range in tone and genre.
Writer dad: Arthur Miller
- Best known for “The Crucible” and “Death of a Salesman,” Miller is almost as well known for his brief marriage to Marilyn Monroe.
- For all of us office-dwellers, from “Death of a Salesman”: “Why am I trying to become what I don't want to be? What am I doing in an office, making a contemptuous, begging fool of myself, when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am!"
- Start with: the play “All My Sons.”
Writer kid: Rebecca Miller
- Miller has written two novels, "The Private Lives of Pippa Lee" and "Jacob's Folly," and the short story collection “Personal Velocity.” She has also written and directed five feature films.
- Married to
Daniel Day-Lewis, Miller directed her husband in “The Ballad of Jack and Rose,” for which she also wrote the script. Her latest film is 2015’s “Maggie’s Plan” starring Greta Gerwigand Ethan Hawke.
- Start with: the novel “Jacob’s Folly,” which is narrated by a French ladies’ man reincarnated as a fly.
James Wright (born 1927, died 1980) was a celebrated postmodern American poet. His son Franz (born 1953, died 2015) matched his father in both talent and reputation — they are the only father and son to have each won the
Writer dad: James Wright
- Wright won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for his “Collected Poems” in 1972.
- Over the course of his career, Wright moved from more traditional, metered work to free verse, as found in 1963’s “The Branch Will Not Break.”
- Start with: “Above the River: The Complete Poems.”
Writer kid: Franz Wright
- Wright won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for his 2003 collection "Walking to Martha's Vineyard."
- When he sent some of his early poems to his father, the elder Wright replied, “You're a poet. Welcome to hell."
- Start with: “The Before Life,” a Pulitzer finalist in 2002.
Andre Dubus II (born 1936, died 1999) is best known for his emotionally complex short fiction. His son, Andre Dubus III (born in 1959), for his engrossing novels, including “House of Sand and Fog.”
Writer dad: Andre Dubus II
- His short fiction was award-winning: he won a MacArthur award in 1988, a Rea Award in 1996 and was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle award in 1997 for ''Dancing After Hours.''
- In 1986 he was helping another driver on a Massachusetts highway and was struck by a car, which left him in a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. “My condition increased my empathy,” he said of the experience.
- Start with: “Selected Stories.”
Writer kid: Andre Dubus III
- Dubus’ novel “House of Sand and Fog” was both a bestseller and a finalist for the National Book Award.
- “House of Sand and Fog” was also made into a film starring Ben Kingsley and Shohreh Aghdashloo, both nominated for Academy Awards for their performances.
- Start with: “Townie: A Memoir,” about his childhood in Massachusetts, his mother and father, and becoming a writer himself.
Writer dad: Stephen King
- You likely have a King title already on your shelf: his books have sold over 350 million copies. (350 million!)
- The list of Stephen King novels that have been made into movies is staggering: “Carrie,” “The Shining,” “Christine,” “Misery,” “Cujo” and dozens more.
- Start with: “The Body,” a novella first published in the collection “Different Seasons," which became the movie “Stand by Me,” or King’s recent trilogy beginning with “Mr. Mercedes.”
Writer kid(s): Joe Hill and Owen King
- Both sons have written fiction in short form and long form. Owen King has penned a graphic novel; Joe Hill earned an Eisner Award for his comic-book series "Locke & Key."
- Like his father, Joe has had his work adapted for the screen: “Horns” was made into a film starring
- Owen collaborated with his father on the novel “Sleeping Beauties,” coming in September 2017.
- Start with: Joe Hill’s recent novel, “The Fireman.”
- Start with: Owen King’s first novel, “Double Feature.”
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