My name is Caleb Crain. I’m a writer—of fiction and nonfiction—and I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Peter Terzian, and our dog.
In 1999 I got a Ph.D. from Columbia University’s English department. Then I worked for about a year as a senior editor at the magazine Lingua Franca. In the 2002-2003 academic year I was a fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. From 2003 to 2006 I taught as an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia.
The journal n+1 published my novella “Sweet Grafton” in its winter 2008 issue. Penguin will be publishing my novel Necessary Errors as a paperback original and an e-book in August 2013. I’ve also written review-essays for The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The London Review of Books, The Nation, the New York Times Book Review, and The New Republic, many of which you can find through a page on this website. In a number of cases, when an essay appeared, I published on this blog a reporter’s notebook—a sort of annotated bibliography of print and online sources that I consulted in my research.
My book American Sympathy: Men, Friendship, and Literature in the New Nation was published by Yale in 2001 (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local library). It was reviewed by American Literary History, Early American Literature, Common-Place.org, and Newsday, among others. I wrote introductions and notes to the Modern Library’s 2002 editions of Royall Tyler’s Algerine Captive (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, your local library) and Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, your local library).
On 8 December 2009, I moderated a panel for n+1 on “Evangelicalism and the Contemporary Intellectual” (video here). On 23 September 2010, I gave a lecture on “Melville’s Secrets” at SUNY Geneseo, for the annual Walter Harding lecture (video here). From time to time I’ve been interviewed on the radio.
This blog won the 2007 Cliopatria Award for Best Writer. The title comes from The Trippings of Tom Pepper, a novel by Charles Frederick Briggs first serialized in 1846. The hero, a boy named Tom Pepper, has stowed away on a schooner. The sailors hear him knocking things over and decide he’s a ghost. This puts them in a melancholy mood, and one evening in the forecastle they reminisce about the good old days, while the hidden Tom Pepper eavesdrops. One of them says, self-pityingly, “Steamboats are ruining everything.” What I love about the quote is that you get the sense that Briggs, who was himself a runaway sailor in his youth, like his friend Melville, thinks the same thing, but prudently puts the sentiment into the mouth of a superstitious, nostalgic old coot.
The image in the left sidebar and again in the footer is of the steamboat The Royal Tar, which caught fire and sank in Penobscot Bay on October 25, 1836; a menagerie of wild animals on board perished. The engraving is from Steamboat Disasters and Railroad Accidents in the United States (Worcester, 1846).
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