American Modernism’s Lost Boy-King

The late, great Paul Auster on Stephen Crane

Spencer Ostrander/Syracuse University
Spencer Ostrander/Syracuse University

We were saddened to learn of Paul Auster’s passing on April 30, at the age of 77. In his memory, revisit this interview, which originally ran on November 5, 2021, on the late author’s favorite writer: Stephen Crane.

In his decades-long career, the writer Paul Auster has turned his hand to poems, essays, plays, novels, translations, screenplays, memoirs—and now biography. Burning Boy explores the life and work of Stephen Crane, whose short time on earth sputtered out at age 28 from tuberculosis. Like his biographer, Crane, too, spanned genres—poetry, novels, short stories, war reporting, and semi-fictional newspaper “sketches”—striking it big in 1895 with The Red Badge of Courage, which was widely celebrated at the time and is still regarded as his best work. But in Auster’s estimation, the rest of Crane’s output (and there is a surprising amount of it) is sorely neglected, and the pleasure of Burning Boy lies in reading one of the 19th century’s finest writers alongside one of today’s. Paul Auster joins the podcast to talk about the task of restoring Stephen Crane to the American canon.

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Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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