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Jonathan Ames

By

Jonathan Ames

Jonathan Ames

© Bart Everly

Jonathan Ames Birth:

Jonathan Ames was born March 23, 1964 in New York City.

Jonathan Ames Life and Writing:

The son of a textile chemical salesman and a special education teacher, Jonathan Ames grew up in Oakland, New Jersey in a middle class household where his love of reading was nurtured by his poetry-writing mother. As an early reader, he enjoyed the Tarzan books of Edgar Rice Burroughs and J.R.R. Tolkien's novels. In high school, Ames, influenced by the gonzo journalism of Hunter S. Thompson, began writing sports and humor articles for the local daily paper. Ames graduated at the top of his class, was an athlete in several sports, and edited his school newspaper.
At Princeton University, Joyce Carol Oates, Ames' thesis adviser, encouraged his work on a novella, I Pass Like Night, which Ames expanded into a novel in the year following his graduation from Princeton and published in 1989.
I Pass Like Night met with positive reviews from critics, who compared the coming-of-age novel with its defiant young protagonist to The Catcher in the Rye. Despite this early success, Ames barely eked out a living as a taxi driver while working on a second novel. He entered Columbia's writing program and earned his MFA in 1995. In 1998, Ames published The Extra Man, a comic novel about Louis Ives, a prep school teacher who is fired as the result of a cross-dressing incident and is taken under the wing of an eccentric playwright who schools Ives in the arts of the "extra man," escorting rich women at social events.
The Extra Man was well-received, and Ames was praised for his sense of humor. In 1999, he received a Guggenheim fellowship with which he launched Oedipussy, an off-off-Broadway show of shocking sexual surrealism. Ames had also been writing an autobiographical column entitled "City Slicker" for the New York Press, a job he gave up in 2000 to teach creative writing as a visiting professor at Indiana University.
Ames published What’s Not to Love?: The Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer, a collection of his New York Press columns, in 2000. What's Not to Love? inspired the launch of a Showtime television pilot in which Ames played himself. The pilot, unfortunately, didn't take off.

Ames' third novel, Wake Up, Sir! (2004), tracks the exploits of alcoholic novelist Alan Blair, whose life is only tenuously being held together by his butler and caretaker, Jeeves (a nod to P.G. Wodehouse). Wake Up, Sir! was a genuinely funny novel, for which Ames was lauded and compared to fellow humor writer, David Sedaris.
Jonathan Ames has varied his creative output in recent years to span numerous media. He published another well-received collection of autobiographical essays in 2006 entitled I Love You More Than You Know; in 2008, he collaborated on The Alcoholic, a semi-autobiographical graphic novel with artist Dean Haspiel and launched Bored to Death, an HBO series about a creatively-blocked Brooklyn writer named Jonathan Ames (played by Jason Schwartzman) who reinvents himself as a private investigator; and in 2009, Ames published yet another collection of gonzo essays, entitled The Double Life Is Twice as Good.

Jonathan Ames' Novels:

  • I Pass Like Night (1989)
  • The Extra Man (1998)
  • Wake Up, Sir! (2004)

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