Peter Trachtenberg holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA from the City College of New York. He is the author of Another Insane Devotion: On the Love of Cats and Persons; 7 Tattoos: A Memoir in the Flesh; and The Book of Calamities: Five Questions About Suffering and Its Meaning, which won the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s 2009 Ralph Waldo Emerson Award for works that “contribute significantly to interpretations of the intellectual and cultural condition of humanity.” His essays and journalism have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, A Public Space, and The New York Times Travel Magazine, and he has published short stories in such journals as TriQuarterly, BOMB, and Benzene. His honors include the Whiting Award, the Nelson Algren Award for Short Fiction, and a 2010-11 Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. In the summer of 2012 he will be a resident at the Bellagio Center.
Trachtenberg is an assistant professor in the Writing Program. Previously, he taught creative nonfiction and fiction at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, St. Mary’s College of California, the University of Iowa’s Summer Writing Festival, The New School, and the MFA program at the City College of New York; he has also taught in Bard College’s Language & Thinking Program. He is currently teaching a graduate seminar in research techniques and looks forward to teaching courses in the sentence, the lyric essay and what he calls “lyric journalism,” work that combines hard research and reporting with a fluid, associative narrative. He believes that one of his tasks as a teacher is “to help students recognize the difference between true stories and false or meretricious ones, whether they come in the guise of fiction or nonfiction, and are purveyed by advertisers or politicians, TV news personalities or Internet bloviators, popular entertainers or the priests of high literature. Judging by the current state of affairs, today’s emerging writers will be bombarded with false stories all their lives. The ability to recognize a truthful one—and even more, tell one—may be of inestimable value.
Trachtenberg's most recent book is a nonfiction narrative that explores what loving an animal—specifically his cats—may reveal about love between men and women. He’s also in the early stages of a book about failure in America, centering on the catastrophic business career of Ulysses S. Grant.
Read Salon’s review of The Book of Calamities: http://www.salon.com/books/review/2008/09/05/trachtenberg
An interview with Peter Trachtenberg on the occasion of his receipt of the 2009 Phi Beta Kappa Award: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8__z4EmtgQ8