Pirate's Alley Faulkner SocietyWords & Music

Jonathan Yardley

Author of:

Second Readings


Jonathan Yardley, a Pulitzer Prize winning book critic for The Washington Post and author of several books, was born in Pittsburgh in 1939. His father was a teacher of English and the classics, as well as an Episcopal minister and a headmaster at two East Coast private schools. Yardley is married to the novelist Marie Arana, the former editor of Washington Post Book World.  His sons, Jim Yardley and William Yardley, by a previous marriage, are New York Times reporters. He and his son Jim are one of two father-son recipients of the Pulitzer Prize. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was the editor of the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, in 1961. After leaving Chapel Hill, Yardley interned at the New York Times as assistant to James Reston, the columnist and Washington Bureau chief. From 1964 to 1974, Yardley worked as an editorial writer and book reviewer at the Greensboro Daily News and, during this time, he was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, academic year 1968-1969, where he studied American literature and literary biography. From 1974 to 1978, Yardley served as book editor of the Miami Herald. From 1978 to 1981, he was the book critic at the Washington Star, receiving a Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism in 1981 and then moving to the Washington Post as book critic and columnist.  Yardley’s books include biographies of Frederick Exley and Ring Lardner. His memoir about his family, Our Kind of People, describes his parents' 50-year marriage and casts a wry eye on the American WASP experience.

First published in 1989, Our Kind of People is Jonathan Yardley’s moving account of his family from the founding of America to the present day. It is the story of the Yardleys, Gregorys, Ingersolls and Woolseys, families prominent in the growth of the nation. But pre-eminently it is the story of Helen and Bill Yardley, the author's parents, whose marriage forms the center of this remarkable narrative. Elizabeth Janeway had this to say about it in the New York Times:

Reads like a first-rate novel....Out of lived experience and inherited legend, Jonathan Yardley has made a fine book about all kind of people.

He edited H.L. Mencken's posthumous literary and journalistic memoir, My Life as Author and Editor. He also has written introductions to books by Graham Greene, A.L. Liebling, Booth Tarkington and others. Yardley is known simultaneously as a scathingly frank critic and a star-maker. Among the talents he has brought to public light and championed are Michael Chabon, Edward P. Jones, Anne Tyler, William Boyd, Olga Grushin and John Berendt. He wrote a famously savage review of Joe McGinniss' book The Last Brother: The Rise and Fall of Teddy Kennedy, saying "Not merely is it a textbook example of shoddy journalistic and publishing ethics; it is also a genuinely, unrelievedly rotten book…” In early 2003, Yardley began a series called Second Reading, described as “An occasional series in which the Post’s book critic reconsiders notable and/or neglected books from the past.” Every month or so, for the next seven years, he published essays about notable books from the past, many of which had gone out of print or were in some way seen as neglected. It was in this series that he gained attention for his highly critical look at The Catcher in the Rye. His latest book is a collection from the series, Second Reading: Notableand Neglected Books Revisited, was published by Europa Editions recently.

Jonathan Yardley's books include as author:

Second Reading: Notable and Neglected Books Revisited.
Monday Morning Quarterback.
Misfit: The Strange Life of Frederick Exley.
Out of Step: Notes From a Purple Decade.
Our Kind of People: The Story of an American Family.
Ring: A Biography of Ring Lardner.

As editor

H.L. Mencken, My Life as Author and Editor.

aulkner Society events are made possible in part by important support from The Arts Council of New Orleans, the City of New Orleans, and the Decentralized Arts Funding Program of The Louisiana Division of the Arts; the J. J. and Dr. Donald Dooley Fund and administrator, Samuel L. Steele, III; Bertie Deming Smith and the Deming Foundation; the Hearst Corporation and Debra Shriver, Vice President; the Law Firm of Deutsch, Kerrigan & Stiles;Dorignac's & Butch Steadman; the English Speaking Union; Rosemary James, Joseph DeSalvo and Faulkner House, Inc; Randy Fertel and The Ruth U. Fertel Foundation; Arthur & Mary Davis, Quint Davis, and Pam Friedler; Alexa Georges; the Louisiana State Museum; Elizabeth McKinley; Hotel Monteleone; Mr. & Mrs. Hartwig Moss, III; Theodosia M. Nolan, Tia and James Roddy, and Peter Tattersall; Parkside Foundation; Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre; Anne and Ron Pincus; Other Press, a Division of Random House; E. Quinn Peeper and Michael Harold; Spring: A Journal of Archetype and Culture: Nancy Cater, Editor; the State Library of Louisiana; Judith "Jude" Swenson in memory of her late husband, James Swenson.

Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society
624 Pirate’s Alley, New Orleans, LA 70116
phone: (504) 586-1609 or (504) 525-5615
fax: (504) 522-9725
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