• Birth—April 23, 1969
• Where—Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
• Education—B.A., Harvard
• Currently—lives in New York City
Arthur Phillips is an American novelist active in the 21st century. His novels include Prague (2002), The Egyptologist (2004), Angelica (2007), The Song Is You (2009), and The Tragedy of Arthur (2011).
Phillips was born in Minneapolis and received a BA in history from Harvard (1986–90). After spending two years in Budapest (1990–1992), he then studied jazz saxophone for four semesters at Berklee College of Music (1992–93). In his author biography and several interviews he claims to have been a child actor, a jazz musician, a five-time Jeopardy! champion, a speechwriter, and an advertising copywriter for medical devices, and a "dismally failed entrepreneur." He lived in Budapest from 1990 to 1992 and in Paris from 2001 to 2003, and now lives in New York with his wife and two sons.
Before becoming a best-selling novelist, Phillips was (in fact) a five-time champion on Jeopardy! in 1997. In 2005, he competed in the Jeopardy! Ultimate Tournament of Champions. He won his opening-round game but lost in the second round.
• Prague (2002)
Despite its title, Prague is set almost entirely in Budapest, Hungary, primarily in 1990, with an interlude detailing several previous generations of Hungarian history, from the Austro-Hungarian monarchy through the First and Second World Wars.
The main line of the novel follows a group of young Western expatriates through their lives in Budapest. Interwoven tales produce an ensemble portrait of the expats and their adopted city, just recovering from decades of Communism, fascism, and war. The novel's recurring themes include nostalgia, sincerity and authenticity, and young people's first search for meaning in life. The novel was well received commercially and critically, winning Phillips the 2003 Los Angeles Times/Art Seidenbaum Award for Best First Fiction, as well as other honors.
• The Egyptologist (2004)
The novel is structured as journals, letters, telegrams, and drawings, from several different points of view. The main story is set in 1922 and follows a hopeful explorer who, working near Howard Carter (the man who discovered the tomb of King Tutankhamun), risks more and more of his life and savings on an apparently quixotic effort to find the tomb of an apocryphal Egyptian king.
The book was an international bestseller and critical success in more than two dozen countries. US critics noted Phillips's versatility in producing a book so different from his first, and fans of the book included Gary Shteyngart, George Saunders, Elizabeth Peters, and Stephen King. Others, however, most notably Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times, found the book overlong and confusing.
• Angelica (2007)
Superficially a Victorian ghost story, Angelica won Phillips comparisons to Henry James, Vladimir Nabokov, and Stephen King. King himself praised the book, and the Washington Post opined that it cemented Phillips's reputation as "one of the best writers in America."
In the novel, the same events are retold four times from four different perspectives, each section casting doubt on the version that came before, until the reader is left to sort truth from fantasy on his or her own. Although the novel received extensive critical praise, it was a commercial disappointment.
• The Song Is You (2009)
Phillips's fourth novel tells the story of a middle-aged man's pursuit of a young woman, an Irish pop singer he sees performing in a bar. Kirkus Reviews said, "Phillips still looks like the best American novelist to have emerged during the present decade."
• The Tragedy of Arthur (2011)
This fifth book was shortlisted for the IMPAC International Literary Prize. A faux memoir, the story revolves around a con-man father who convinces his son to sell a hitherto unknown Shakespeare play. Publishers Weekly called it "a tricky project, funny and brazen, smart and playful." (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 1/21/2014.)
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