About George Hodgman

Photo of George Hodgman

Thank you for your interest in my book. I appreciate it.

I am a native of small town Missouri, having grown up in two little places—Madison (population 528) and Paris (population 1,248).  I loved these towns, the characters who inhabited them, and all the stories that a nosy kid like me could manage to eavesdrop on. All my life, the people in these places have stayed in my head, rattling around, chatting, and causing trouble in what was already a noisy place.

Always indecisive and rarely practical, I graduated from University of Missouri in Columbia with a double major in English and Magazine Journalism in 1981. I had wanted to be a reporter but decided that I lacked the chutzpah to call on the grieving wives of murder victims and other sufferers of tragedy and disaster. For a brief time, I believed that I should become an English professor, a notion not shared by anyone in the American Academic community. In 1983, after considerable warfare with the card catalog and near fatal run-ins with the irritable microfiche system, I left Boston College with a Master’s Degree and little interest in further education.

I moved to New York, settling in Brooklyn before it was fashionable. Way before. I went through a series of low-paying jobs and wandered the streets endlessly, on the verge of poverty and convinced that my great genius would forever go unrecognized. (This has turned out to be true.) I wanted to be a writer, but lacked much experience to write about and turned to book publishing where, at Simon and Schuster, I began to hone my skills in that arena by composing flap copy. Most of the time, I was burdened by my own need to—instead of selling the book—put forward my own critical opinions about it. Before I could be booted from this position, I made one friend, a powerful editor who seemed to see in me both pathos and some sort of possibility. I became her assistant editor, relishing the opportunity to work on books with authors who, for the most part, had little interest in my opinions. Still, I managed to work on a lot of interesting books by writers I will never forget: Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters, his magnificent saga of the Civil Rights Movement; Den of Thieves by James Stewart, still one of the  great Wall Street corruption yarns. Gradually, I began to acquire and edit my own books. Chief among them was My Own Country by Abraham Verghese, which told the story of a young doctor, new to the South, confronting AIDS in a territory where the disease was seen as a biblical scourge. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to be involved in that book.

After six years at Simon and Schuster, I became an editor at Vanity Fair, where I worked with amazing reporters (Gail Sheehy, Buzz Bissinger, Leslie Bennetts, Judy Bachrach, Peter Biskind, Kim Masters) and other writers such as Sylvia Nasar, whose books I serialized for the magazine. The high point of my time at V.F. was working on Nasar’s A Beautiful Mind, an article based on the book that became the Academy Award-winning film. On another front, I worked with Madonna on her diaries which appeared in the magazine around the time she did Evita. Those who wish to have further detail on that experience may contact me privately.

After six years at V.F., I returned to books, first at Henry Holt and then at Houghton Mifflin. My proudest accomplishments during those years were working on Kevin Boyle’s Arc of Justice, which won the National Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and two books by the late Anthony Shadid, perhaps the greatest foreign correspondent of his generation: Night Draws Near and House of Stone. I miss Anthony, who died in Syria in 2012, a great deal and consider him, in many ways, the godfather of Bettyville, a book that I truly hope you will find funny and moving.

That’s me, in a nutshell. For further information, contact my mother. Believe me, she will have a lot to say.