John Freeman

Cultural Critic
Acclaimed Essayist & Poet
Editor of Freeman's

Readings & Lecture Topics

  • Irreality in contemporary life
  • Empathy and inequality
  • Humor in literature
  • The ethics of public space
  • An Evening with John Freeman

“John delights in and is thoroughly devoted to writing and to books. He is my kind of person.” – Louise Erdrich

“Mr. Freeman is not afraid to reveal that the self-assured geniuses of contemporary literati are, in fact, breathing human beings—and as it turns out, this is exactly his aspiration.” – The Observer

“Fiery and Nuanced.” – NPR

John Freeman is an editor and literary curator of the highest order, author of cultural commentary, and intrepid poet.

John’s work includes two anthologies discussing economic inequalities in America, Tales of Two Americas (2017) and Tales of Two Cities (2015), which was hailed as “a bristling portrayal of New York in the tradition of Jacob Riis” by Guernica. John’s authored books include How to Read a Novelist (2013) — a collection of 55 deeply informed and closely observed encounters with exceptional novelists — from Haruki Murakami to Edwidge Danticat to Jonathan Franzen, and The Tyranny of E-mail (2011), which considers the consequences of lives spent in an over-stimulated environment of media and communication saturation. Maps is John Freeman’s debut collection of poetry from Copper Canyon Press (Fall 2017).

John Freeman is the editor of Freeman’s — a literary biannual anthology of new writing in fiction, nonfiction and poetry, each issue orbiting around a single theme: Arrival, Family, Home, etc. — and executive editor of the online literary news source, Literary Hub.

John’s work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Paris Review, and The Guardian (London). In 2007, Freeman won the James Patterson Pageturner Award for his work as the president of the National Book Critics Circle. The former editor of Granta, John teaches writing at The New School and is Writer in Residence at New York University.

John Freeman is the editor of Freeman’s, a literary biannual of new writing, and executive editor of Lit Hub. His books include How to Read a Novelist and The Tyranny of E-mail, as well as two anthologies, Tales of Two Americas and Tales of Two Cities, both anthologies of including new writing about inequality in America today. Maps is John Freeman’s debut collection of poetry from Copper Canyon Press (Fall 2017). His work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The New York Times. The former editor of Granta, he teaches writing at The New School and is Writer in Residence at New York University.

MAPS (Poetry, 2017)

Freeman’s poetry debut maps the present by way of the past, drawing inspiration from childhood memories, family, and former loves.

TALES OF TWO AMERICAS (Anthology, 2017)

Poignant and profound, Tales of Two Americas unites a multiplicity of voices into a powerful rallying cry.”—NPR 

America is broken. You don’t need a fistful of statistics to know this. Visit any city, and evidence of our shattered social compact will present itself. From Appalachia to the Rust Belt and down to rural Texas, the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest stretches to unimaginable chasms. Whether the cause of this inequality is systemic injustice, the entrenchment of racism in our culture, the long war on drugs, or immigration policies, it endangers not only the American Dream but our very lives.

In Tales of Two Americas, some of the literary world’s most exciting writers look beyond numbers and wages to convey what it feels like to live in this divided nation. Their extraordinarily powerful stories, essays, and poems demonstrate how boundaries break down when experiences are shared, and that in sharing our stories we can help to alleviate a suffering that touches so many people.

TALES OF TWO CITIES (Anthology, 2015)

In a city where the top one percent earns more than a half-million dollars per year while twenty-five thousand children are homeless, public discourse about our entrenched and worsening wealth gap has never been more sorely needed. This remarkable anthology is the literary world’s response, with leading lights including Zadie Smith, Junot Díaz, and Lydia Davis bearing witness to the experience of ordinary New Yorkers in extraordinarily unequal circumstances. Through fiction and reportage, these writers convey the indignities and heartbreak, the callousness and solidarities, of living side by side with people of starkly different means. They shed light on the subterranean lives of homeless people who must find a bed in the city’s tunnels; the stresses that gentrification can bring to neighbors in a Brooklyn apartment block; the shenanigans of seriously alienated night-shift paralegals; the trials of a housing defendant standing up for tenants’ rights; and the humanity that survives in the midst of a deeply divided city. Tales of Two Cities is a brilliant, moving, and ultimately galvanizing clarion call for a city—and a nation—in crisis.


To read about the personal, emotional, mental, political, and artistic struggles and triumphs of great writers is to see them as flesh and blood human beings…intimate and thoughtful sketches.”― Publishers Weekly

The novel is alive and well, thank you very much.

For the last fifteen years, whenever a novel was published, John Freeman was there to greet it. As a critic for more than two hundred newspapers worldwide, the onetime president of the National Book Critics Circle, and the former editor of Granta, he has reviewed thousands of books and interviewed scores of writers. In How to Read a Novelist, which pulls together his very best profiles (many of them new or completely rewritten for this volume) of the very best novelists of our time, he shares with us what he’s learned.

From such international stars as Doris Lessing, Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie, and Mo Yan, to established American lions such as Don DeLillo, Norman Mailer, Toni Morrison, Marilynne Robinson, Philip Roth, John Updike, and David Foster Wallace, to the new guard of Edwidge Danticat, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Franzen, and more, Freeman has talked to everyone.

What emerges is an instructive and illuminating, definitive yet still idiosyncratic guide to a diverse and lively literary culture: a vision of the novel as a varied yet vital contemporary form, a portrait of the novelist as a unique and profound figure in our fragmenting global culture, and a book that will be essential reading for every aspiring writer and engaged reader—a perfect companion (or gift!) for anyone who’s ever curled up with a novel and wanted to know a bit more about the person who made it possible.

THE TYRANNY OF EMAIL (Nonfiction, 2009)

“Freeman uses lush prose and invokes examples from great literature to make his points. He comes at things not from a giddy utopian perspective that permeates most writing about technology but from a humanist one. It makes the book refreshing and powerful.” — Boston Globe

There’s no question that e-mail is an incredible phenomenon that represents a kind of cultural and technological advancement. The first e-mail was sent less than forty years ago; by 2011, there will be 3.2 billion e-mail users. The average corporate worker now receives upwards of two hundred e-mails per day. The flood of messages is ceaseless and follows us everywhere.

In The Tyranny of E-mail, John Freeman takes an entertaining look at the unrelenting nature of correspondence through the ages. Put down your smart phone and consider the consequences. As the toll of e-mail mounts, reducing our time for leisure and contemplation and separating us in an unending and lonely battle with the overfull inbox, John Freeman “one of America’s preeminent literary critics” enters a plea for communication that is more selective and nuanced and, above all, more sociable.