John Wray

Mary Ellen von der Heyden Fiction Fellow - Class of Fall 2010

Writer, New York

American Academy Project: The Lost Time Accidents
Current Location: New York


John Wray is a New York-based author whose first novel, The Right Hand of Sleep (Knopf, 2001), won the Whiting Writers’ Award for Fiction in 2001. It was followed by Canaan’s Tongue (Knopf, 2005), a book based on a legend about the preacher John Murrell, described by Mark Twain in Life on the Mississippi. Wray’s third and most recent novel, Lowboy (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2008), tells the story of 16-year-old William Heller, a paranoid schizophrenic who has just escaped his chaperones at a mental institution, as he makes his way through the Manhattan subway system. Wray’s compassionate and deeply unsettling portrait of the boy won praise from many reviewers, including the New York Times Book Review, which called the book “a meticulously constructed novel, immensely satisfying in the perfect, precise beat of its plot.” Wray’s writing has been published in the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, and the Paris Review. In 2007 he was selected as one of the best American novelists under the age of 35 by Granta.

American Academy Project

The Lost Time Accidents

During his fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin, Wray will work on a new novel, tentatively entitled The Lost Time Accidents, which follows an extended central European family from 1890 to the present. Over the course of four generations, the Toula family (a branch of which emigrates to America) encounters a great many of the prevailing political and social ideologies that shaped the twentieth century—among them fascism, communism, environmentalism, and neo-conservativism. The family’s great passion, however, is physics, specifically the study of the nature of time. Wray’s stay at the Academy will be spent working on the first draft of this novel, a significant portion of which takes place in Berlin and its environs.

Lecture Summary

Published in Arts and Culture

The Lost Time Accidents

On November 4, writer John Wray gave a lively reading of three different sections of his work-in-progress, The Lost Time Accidents. Wray's fourth novel chronicles the rise, fall and partial resurrection of the Toula/Tolliver clan, a funhouse-mirror portrait of the author's own family. »