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Carl Rollyson - Baruch College, The City University of New York. Greater New York City Area, NY, US

Carl Rollyson

Professor of Journalism | Baruch College, The City University of New York

Greater New York City Area, NY, UNITED STATES

Professor of Journalism at Baruch College, The City University of New York





Hollywood Enigma That Woman American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath




I have published biographies of Marilyn Monroe, Lillian Hellman, Martha Gellhorn, Norman Mailer, Rebeca West, Susan Sontag, and Jill Craigie. In September, University Press of Mississippi is publishing HOLLYWOOD ENIGMA: DANA ANDREWS and in February St. Martin's Press is publishing AMERICAN ISIS: THE LIFE AND ART OF SYLVIA PLATH. My speaking engagements for the next year include the National Arts Club in New York City, the George Bush Presidential Library in Houston, the Philadelphia Atheneum, Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg, VA, and media and bookstore appearances in St. Louis, Madison, Wisconsin, Denver, and Los Angeles. Click on "Meet Rebecca West (under "My Links") for a sample of my speaking style and "That Woman" for a promo for my play, produced in New York City and Amsterdam.

Industry Expertise (5)

Performing Arts

Motion Pictures and Film


Media - Online


Areas of Expertise (1)

Marketing Quality Work

Accomplishments (3)

NEH Fellowship for College Teachers (professional)

I have been awarded three of the highly competitive NEH fellowships. Two were for my biographies of Rebecca West and Amy Lowell (in progress). I was also awarded an NEH fellowship for a book about biography, published as A HIGHER FORM OF CANNIBALISM? ADVENTURES IN THE ART AND POLITICS OF BIOGRAPHY.

American Council of Learned Societies (professional)

I was awarded a grant for my biography of the highly regarded journalist, Martha Gellhorn. The book was published in 1990 as NOTHING EVER HAPPENS TO THE BRAVE: THE STORY OF MARTHA GELLHORN.

American Philosophical Society grant (professional)

I was awarded a grant for work on my biography of Lillian Hellman, published as LILLIAN HELLMAN: HER LEGEND AND HER LEGACY in 1988. Recently the NEW YORK TIMES singled out my book as the best biography of Hellman--quite a distinction since several biographies have been published since my book first appeared 25 years ago.

Education (1)

University of Toronto: Ph.D, English 1975

I completed my undergraduate work at Michigan State University, earning a B.A. degree in English in 1969.

Affiliations (2)

  • Biographers International Organization Authors Guild International Rebecca West Society
  • Baruch College, The City University of New York

Testimonials (5)

Patricia O'Toole, Author of THE FIVE OF HEARTS: AN INTIMATE PORTRAIT OF HENRY ADAMS AND HIS FRIENDS | Former board member, New York University Biography Seminar

"Carl Rollyson is to biography what Boswell was to Johnson: indispensable. An excellent biographer himself, Rollyson is also the finest critic of the art as well as a thoroughly delightful guide to the pleasures of reading biography and the perils of writing it."

John Heilpern, Writer | NEW YORK OBSERVER

"For anyone mad enough to write a biography, this witty, definitive book [Biography: A User's Guide] is absolutely essential reading. For anyone who merely loves reading biography, it’s a smashing insider’s guide. Mr. Rollyson is informed and passionate and fun about a subject he knows intimately. He’s also unafraid to let his personal opinions show, thank goodness. In short, he’s written a wonderfully entertaining biography about the art of biography."

Ann Waldron, Biographer and newspaper book reviewer and columnist, author of EUDORA: A WRITER'S LIFE | Philadelphia Inquirer

"Carl Rollyson knows more about biographies than anyone else in the world. His independent mind, his experience, and his voracious reading have equipped him to produce amazing insights into the reading -- and writing -- of biographies.

Roger Lewis, Author of THE LIFE AND DEATH OF PETER SELLERS (book and Emmy and Golden Globe Award Winning HBO movie) | HBO

"With his high-powered and perceptive page-turners on Lillian Hellman, Rebecca West, Martha Gellhorn and Susan Sontag, Carl Rollyson has shown himself to be amongst the very first rank of contemporary biographical practitioners. --Roger Lewis, author of The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (book and Emmy and Golden Globe Award Winning HBO movie), The Real Life of Laurence Olivier, and Anthony Burgess

Donna Rifkind, Reviewer | New York Times, June 8, 2012

Always the challenger, Hellman did her best to thwart all unsanctioned accounts of her life. She forbade her friends to talk to inquiring writers and destroyed many of her personal letters. Nonetheless, a half-dozen biographies have been published since her death. The best of them is Carl Rollyson’s “Lillian Hellman: Her Legend and Her Legacy” (1988), a critical but astute portrait.

Event Appearances (5)

Alternatives to Traditional Publishing

Biographers International Organization Annual Conference  Davidson Center, University of Southern California


Living Hell: Writing an Unauthorized Biography

Third Annual Carole Klein Lecture  National Arts Club, New York City


Dana Andrews: The Road from Rockdale to Hollywood

Author appearance  Lucy Hill Patterson Memorial Library, Rockdale, Texas


Marilyn Monroe

Legends of Hollywood Film Festival  Wynne Home Arts Center, Huntsville, Texas


Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews  George Bush Presidential Library, College Station, TX


Sample Talks (4)

Adventures of an Outlaw: A Biographer at Work

This is an informal talk about my career as a biographer, my problems dealing with biographies of living figures, my experiences with lawyers, and how I have been able to publish my books even when concerted efforts are made in the press to trash my work. This talk also addresses broader questions of how public figures are written about in the press and often how the press collaborates in creating a certain image of the public figure that biographers often have to challenge.

Alternatives to Traditional Publishing

I have self-published over twenty books. I can talk knowledgeably about marketing titles, explain why I use self-publishing as part of a publishing programs that includes trade publishers, small presses, and university presses. My experience as a book reviewer for the WALL STREET JOURNAL, THE WASHINGTON POST, and THE NEW YORK SUN informs my understanding of the way books get noticed and reviewed. Included in my talk are several examples of the way I have used social media to promote my work.

The Making of Movie Stars and Icons

My biographies focus on subjects who have transformed themselves into film stars and icons. In my book, FEMALE ICONS: FROM MARILYN MONROE TO SUSAN SONTAG, I anatomize the careers of writers and various artists who quite deliberately invent themselves--often creating stories and events, or embellishing actual experiences in order to create glamorous images of themselves. How these figures use the media, and the way the media collaborates in the creation of stars is also a feature of my talk.

Quality Work: Why It Must be Marketed

I’m writing a biography of Amy Lowell (1874–1925). She constantly wrote to publishers, magazine editors, and critics. She called them and parked herself in their offices. She designed her own promotional material and advertisements. Imagine how she would have used her author’s website. That is what social media is, too: showing up. For Amy Lowell--and for me--imagining and creating an audience for one’s work is what writing is all about.


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