Picture of Lenny by Ed Hamilton, published in Playboy to accompany one of Lenny’s early published stories.

Published Books

  • The Essays of Leonard Michaels, edited by Katharine Ogden Michaels, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009. Selected by Phillip Lopate, editor of The Glorious American Essay, as one of the 5 best essay collections published in America, along with those by Nabokov, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, and Richard Rodriquez. See Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2020.
  • Leonard Michaels: The Collected Stories, edited by Katharine Ogden Michaels, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, 2007.
  • The Nachman Stories, published in literary magazines before being collected under that name in The Collected Stories in 2007, and as a separate volume by The Arion Press in 2009, with essays by Robert Haas and Morton Paley, Robert Pinsky and Diana Ketchum.
  • A Girl with a Monkey: New and Collected Short Stories, Mercury House, San Francisco, CA., 2000.
  • Time Out of Mind, The Diaries of Leonard Michaels, 1961-1995 Riverhead Books, The Berkeley Publishing Group, A Division of Penguin Putnam, Inc., New York, NY, 1999.
  • A Cat, with Illustrations by Frances Lerner, Riverhead Books, New York, NY, 1995; republished by Tin House Books, Portland, Oregon & Brooklyn, New York, 2018, with an Introduction by Sigrid Nunez.
  • To Feel These Things, Mercury House, San Francisco, CA., 1993.
  • Sylvia, An Autobiographical Novel, Mercury House, San Francisco, CA., 1992; later republished as Sylvia, A Novel, with an Introduction by Diane Johnson, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, (2007).
  • State of the Language, edited by Leonard Michaels and Christopher Ricks. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990; published in association with the English Speaking Union, San Francisco Branch, with Prefatory Note and essay by Leonard Michaels.
  • Shuffle, Michael di Capua Books, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, NY, 1990.
  • West of the West, Imagining California, An Anthology of fiction, memoirs, essays, journalism, and poetry dramatizing California’s recent history and sense of place. Co-edited by Leonard Michaels, David Reid and Raquel Scherr.
  • The Men’s Club. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1981.
  • The Men’s Club. A Screenplay. Berkeley, CA., 1982.
  • The Men’s Club, A Dramatic Film, 1985.
  • The Men’s Club, A Screenplay for the Theater, produced in New York City in 1985.
  • State of the Language, edited by Leonard Michaels and Christopher Ricks. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980; published in association with the English Speaking Union, San Francisco Branch.
  • I Would Have Saved Them Them If I Could, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, 1975. 
  • Going Places, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, 1969.

Katharine and Lenny on the Loggia at La Pietra, Umbria, Italy

Leonard Michaels

One of the most widely admired prose stylists of his generation, Leonard Michaels was famous for his crystalline sentences and compressed, eruptive prose. He burst on the New York scene in the mid-60’s with short stories proclaimed to be as original and radiant as they were raw and raspingly funny. His first full collection of stories, titled Going Places, was published in 1969 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux (FSG) to widespread acclaim.

Between 1969 and 2003, he published a memorable body of work that included collections of stories; a Canterbury Tales-style novel regarding the enigmatic relations between men and women; multiple essays that often read like stories; and autobiographical fictions notable for their sense of place, time, and their original cross-genre explorations. These ranged from aphoristic journal entries to a novel-like account of his first marriage, played out in a cold water flat on McDougal Street during the chaotic period of the early 60’s.

Called “a fabulist and a minimalist” by fellow writers and scholars, Robert Hass and Morton Paley, Michaels had the uncanny ear of a poet. Even after he moved to California to teach, he was often considered an archetypal “New York” writer—not only because of his regular use of Jewish source material, but also because of the velocity, syncopation, and onslaught of his prose style. Yet by the end of his writing career, his memorable sentences had evolved from rawness into the softer, more philosophical rhythms of the mysterious and moving Nachman Stories.

Michaels was a tenured professor at UC Berkeley for over twenty-five years, teaching creative writing, Wallace Stevens, Shakespeare, Kafka and St. Augustine among many others.

At the time of his death in 2003 at the age of 70, he was splitting his time between Berkeley, CA and Umbria, Italy with his wife, Katharine Ogden Michaels.

Critics’ Praise

“A dense, ribald, atringent outpouring of pure talent.”
– Susan Sontag

“One of the strongest and most arresting prose talents of his generation.”
– Larry McMurtry

“Leonard Michaels’s tersely lyrical prose is as beautifully honed as that of any contemporary novelist who comes to mind.”
Francine du Plessix Gray

“His every page reveals the mark of an extraordinarily original and gifted talent.”
William Styron

“Leonard Michaels is one of the genuine wild talents of American fiction—destructive, joyful, brilliant, purely creative.”  
John Hawkes

“Chekhov and Kafka, after consulting with Chaucer, might have collaborated on The Men’s Club.  It is excellent.”
– John Leonard, The New York Times

“Leonard Michaels was an original; everything he wrote, like it or not, came alive…[He is] part of that astonishing flowering of American Jewish writing that included Bellow, Malamud, Mailer and Roth, toward which he can be seen as both filial heir and mischievous critic.”
– Phillip Lopate

“Sentence by sentence, [Michaels’s stories] have an electrical charge…Other American writers have tried to write stories like these, but Leonard Michaels got there first and has done it better than almost anyone else.”
– Charles Baxter

Harry Belafonte and Lenny at the Cuba Film Festival, 1989

Cover of Sylvia, a novel by Leonard Michaels