MacArthur Fellows Program

MacArthur Fellows / Meet the Class of 2013

Donald Antrim


Associate Professor, Writing Program

Columbia University

New York, NY

Age: 55

Published September 25, 2013

Donald Antrim is a writer whose tightly crafted works of fiction and nonfiction are marked by a contrast between elegant, concise language and the disorienting chaos in which his characters find themselves. Antrim creates fictional worlds that are both commonplace and yet surreal, combining close observations of the banality of everyday life with the absurd.

The Verificationist (2000) recounts the ramblings of a group of psychoanalysts in an all-night restaurant through the eyes of Tom, who spends most of the book floating on the ceiling and whose tenuous grasp on reality is being destroyed by his dread of small, everyday decisions. In The Hundred Brothers (1998), Antrim creates a circumscribed, fantastical world in which a gathering of brothers at their ancestral estate (ostensibly to bury their father’s ashes) exposes the comical yet destructive manifestations of masculinity, sibling rivalry, and familial disintegration. As the night progresses and their task remains unfinished, the narrator both explicates and evokes in the reader the alternating feelings of love and hate that characterize his relationship with his brothers and lead to the novel’s inevitable, macabre climax.

Antrim’s first foray into nonfiction, The Afterlife: A Memoir (2007), is a series of essays in which he attempts to make peace with the legacy of his mother’s alcoholism. In lucid, tightly controlled prose, he synthesizes the overwhelming emotional chaos of life with his mother and distills painful experiences into a work of tenderness and beauty, moving past the particularity of his ordeal toward a more universal struggle with mortality and melancholy. Currently completing a new novel as well as his first collection of short stories, Antrim continues to compose works of fiction that astonish and captivate.

Donald Antrim received a B.A. (1981) from Brown University. He is an associate professor in the Writing Program at Columbia University, and his additional publications include Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World (1993).


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Donald Antrim In the Media

"Donald Antrim and the Art of Anxiety" thumbnail

"Donald Antrim and the Art of Anxiety"

The New York Times
Donald Antrim, 2013 MacArthur Fellow
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"The Emerald Light in the Air" thumbnail

"The Emerald Light in the Air"

The New Yorker
Donald Antrim, 2013 MacArthur Fellow
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"2013 MacArthur Fellows Include Donald Antrim, Karen Russell"

The Los Angeles Times
Karen Russell & Donald Antrim, 2013 MacArthur Fellows Read More

"2013′s Literary Geniuses"

The Millions
Donald Antrim & Karen Russel, 2013 MacArthur Fellows Read More
"Congratulations, Donald Antrim" thumbnail

"Congratulations, Donald Antrim"

The New Yorker
Donald Antrim, 2013 MacArthur Fellow Read More

About the Fellows Program

The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. Learn More

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Class of 2014

24 Extraordinarily Creative People Who Inspire Us All:  Meet the 2013 MacArthur Fellows thumbnail

24 Extraordinarily Creative People Who Inspire Us All: Meet the 2013 MacArthur Fellows

“This year’s class of MacArthur Fellows is an extraordinary group of individuals who collectively reflect the breadth and depth of American creativity.” -- Cecilia Conrad, Vice President, MacArthur Fellows program Read More