Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Paul Zindel was born in Staten Island, New York, on May 15, 1936, the son of Paul and Beatrice Mary Frank Zindel. His father, a policeman, deserted his family when Paul was two years old, leaving Beatrice with the responsibility of raising Paul and his sister, Betty, who was two years older. The breakup of the family left Paul with a deep-seated feeling of resentment toward his father, who ignored his children and failed to make any financial contribution to their support.
Following her husband’s desertion, Zindel’s mother worked in a variety of jobs, supplementing her salary at times by stealing small items from her clients. Since many of these jobs were short-term practical nursing assignments, the family moved frequently. As a result, Zindel’s childhood was rootless and lonely. This loneliness was intensified when he developed tuberculosis at age fifteen and was forced to spend eighteen months in a sanatorium, where most of the patients were adults.
After his recovery and return to high school, Zindel, who had shown an interest in writing plays, entered a playwriting contest sponsored by the American Cancer Society. He was awarded a silver ballpoint pen for his drama about a pianist who recovers from a serious illness to play Frédéric Chopin’s Warsaw Concerto at Carnegie Hall.
During his senior year in high school, feeling what he called a “teenaged angst,” Zindel dropped out of school and traveled to Miami, Florida, where he tried unsuccessfully to find a job. After two weeks and the total exhaustion of his financial resources, Zindel returned to New York, where he finished high school in 1954, one year late. He then applied to five colleges, without any clear idea of what he wanted to do. He was accepted by several prestigious schools but decided to attend Wagner College on Staten Island, a move he believes was prompted by low self-esteem and social insecurity, legacies he attributes to his mother.
Zindel majored in chemistry at Wagner but maintained his interest in writing. He served as editor for the school newspaper and wrote an original play as his term paper for a continental drama course. During a visit to New York to cover a writers conference (an assignment he had given himself), Zindel came under the spell of Edward Albee, a playwright best known for his play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962). Zindel signed up for a course taught by Albee and under his famous teacher’s direction completed a play, Dimensions of...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
“Whatever I do,” Zindel once said, “becomes summarized in my writing.” The result of this summarization is a series of plays and novels constructed around Zindel’s search for meaning and the resolution of problems left over from his adolescence. The plays, which are written for an adult audience, are most often about troubled women, and they contain some attempt to find a reason behind a seemingly senseless life. The novels, on the other hand, are directed toward a young adult audience and are designed to provide both entertainment and insight. In each of Zindel’s novels his characters, and perhaps his readers, learn a lesson.
Biography (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
Paul Zindel was born on May 15, 1936, in Staten Island, New York, to Paul and Betty (née Frank) Zindel. His father, a police officer, abandoned his wife and two small children, Paul and a sister. Betty Zindel, a practical nurse, launched into numerous ventures, ranging from real estate to dog breeding, and sometimes took in terminally ill patients for board and care. The family moved almost annually.
This transient lifestyle and his mother’s unwillingness, if not inability, to form meaningful relationships acquainted young Zindel with various forms of loss. Pets allowed at one home might be forbidden by the next landlord. Dogs raised for sale would eventually be sold. Board-and-care patients would sometimes die. The frequent moves, too, kept the boy, more often than not, in the role of newcomer in a neighborhood. It grew simpler to enjoy the worlds of imagination and, when possible, the manageable environments of aquaria and terraria.
In school, Zindel occasionally acted in plays and skits, some of which he wrote himself. At fifteen, he contracted tuberculosis and spent about eighteen months in a sanatorium, the sole youth in an otherwise adult community. He learned some parlor games and studied piano during his stay; more important, he became an interested observer of adult behavior. Returned to health and to high school, Zindel wrote a play for a contest sponsored by the American Cancer Society; it centered on a young pianist who recovers from a serious illness to play at Carnegie Hall. The play won for Zindel a Parker pen.
Zindel majored in chemistry at Wagner College in New York City. While completing his bachelor of science degree, he took a creative writing course with Edward Albee and wrote a play, Dimensions of Peacocks, during his senior year. Zindel was graduated in 1958, and after working briefly as a technical writer for a Manhattan chemical firm, he decided that he wanted to teach.
Completing a master of science degree at Wagner in 1959, Zindel began teaching chemistry and physics at Tottenville High School on Staten Island. His Dimensions of Peacocks received a minor staging; more significant, he attended his first professional theater production, Lillian Hellman’s Toys in the Attic (pr., pb. 1960), and left with his appetite for theater whetted.
For the next several years, Zindel continued to teach and to write....
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Paul Zindel (zihn-DEHL), a prizewinning young adult author and playwright, is known for his realistic, if sometimes bizarre, presentation of issues and situations appealing to contemporary adolescent readers. According to Zindel, these stories were based on his personal experiences as a teenager and a high school teacher. As a child, Zindel never really knew his father, but his hardworking mother juggled a variety of jobs in order to provide for Zindel and his older sister. Although the family moved frequently, Zindel found that each neighborhood offered a new background for his imaginative pursuits.
While still in high school, Zindel contracted tuberculosis and spent a year and a half in a sanatorium, the only teenager in a sterile world filled with adults. This experience, in addition to his exposure to the private nursing patients cared for by Zindel’s mother, shaped the development of fictional medical incidents that occur in some of his works. From this isolated and lonely time, Zindel developed the voice of an alienated narrator which even reluctant readers have found appealing.
While his major at Wagner College was chemistry (in which he was awarded a B.S. in 1958 and an M.S. in 1959), Zindel also took classes in creative writing; playwright Edward Albee was one of his instructors. After a brief period serving as a technical writer for a chemical company, Zindel spent ten years working as a high school chemistry teacher, writing fiction in his spare time. Wagner College later awarded him an honorary doctorate for his achievements in...
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Paul Zindel was born on May 15, 1936, in Staten Island, New York, and grew up on Staten Island with his mother and sister. His father, a police officer, abandoned the family when Zindel was very young, and Zindel rarely saw him. His mother struggled to make ends meet, and because of their poverty, the family moved often. Zindel felt like a misfit because he had no father and because the family moved so much, but later realized that this feeling of being different from others had fueled his imagination. He wrote his first play in high school, and enjoyed the praise he got from other students for his morbid sense of humor.
He attended Wagner College on Staten Island, where he studied chemistry, but also took a creative writing course with famed playwright Edward Albee who encouraged Zindel to write more plays. He wrote his second original play during his last year of college.
After college, Zindel worked briefly as a technical writer for Allied Chemical, but he hated the job. After six months, he quit and became a high-school chemistry and physics teacher. While teaching, he continued to write plays; his first staged play was The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, loosely based on his own life. The play won several awards, including Best American Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama; it was produced on Broadway; and it was made into a film and a television drama.
Charlotte Zolotow, an editor for the publisher Harper & Row, was impressed by the play and asked Zindel if he had any novels in mind. She encouraged him to write The Pigman, his first novel, which was published in 1968. The novel was selected as one of the Notable Children's Books of 1940-1970 by the American Library Association and was named one of their Best of the Best Books for Young Adults in 1975. It was also one of the Child Study Association of America's Children's Books of the Year in 1968, and was given the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Text in 1969. The book was inspired by two teenagers Zindel met, a young man who had many of the adventures that later appeared in the book, and a young woman who was very much like Lorraine, one of the two main characters. The Pigman, an eccentric old Italian man, was based on an Italian grandfather who was a mentor to Zindel when he was young.
In 1969, Zindel quit teaching and became a full-time writer. In a profile published on the Scholastic Web site, he said, "I felt I could do more for teenagers by writing for them." He read several young adult books and felt that they had nothing to do with what teenagers were really like, and he resolved to write honestly from the teenagers' point of view. Since then, he has written many acclaimed books for young adults, including My Darling, My Hamburger, I Never Loved Your Mind, Pardon Me, You're Stepping on My Eyeball!, The Undertaker's Gone Bananas, Confessions of a Teenage Baboon, Raptor, Loch, The Doom Stone, Reef of Death, and most recently, Rats.
In 1973, Zindel married Bonnie Hildebrand. They have two children, David and Elizabeth.
In the Scholastic profile, Zindel wrote, "I like storytelling. We all have an active thing that we do that gives us self-esteem, that makes us proud; it's necessary. I have to tell stories because that's the way the wiring went in."
IntroductionPardon Me, You’re Stepping on My Eyeball is just one of Paul Zindel’s wackily titled works. Though trained at Wagner College as a chemist, Zindel is famous for his plays and young adult novels, many of which are still taught in schools. Zindel’s books tend to focus on abused and neglected children dealing with loneliness and isolation. They are often dark and tragic works, yet many of them have a humorous tone and deal with issues universal to teenagers. Zindel’s own early experiences shaped his writing. His father left the family when he was young, and his mother—a professional nurse—often got caught up in cons and other shady activities. Zindel’s first novel, The Pigman, has been widely banned because of its language and subject matter, but it remains one of his most popular.
- Zindel taught science for a number of years but eventually gave it up. He said, “I felt I could do more for teenagers by writing for them.” He wanted to show teenagers they had a voice through his fiction.
- Zindel was greatly influenced by playwright Edward Albee, who wrote Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Zindel once took a ten-day seminar with Albee and tried to model his career after him.
- Zindel wrote the screenplay for the flop film version of Mame, which starred Lucille Ball.
- Zindel’s children followed in his footsteps. His daughter Lizabeth is a playwright and actress, and his son David is a filmmaker.
- The characters of John and Lorraine in The Pigman were inspired by real-life teenagers whom Zindel knew.
Paul Zindel was born in Staten Island, New York, on May 15,1936. He is the son of Paul, a New York policeman, and Betty Zindel. He also has an older sister, Betty. His father left the family when Paul was two-years-old, and from then on, Zindel was raised by his mother. Betty Zindel moved the family from town to town and worked at various odd jobs to support them. Zindel's mother was a troubled woman who was bitter and very distrustful of men. She constantly threatened suicide. Her despair and disappointment in life is found in the character of Beatrice Hunsdorfer in Gamma Rays. For a time, Betty worked as a private duty nurse, and this is directly reflected in the play, as Beatrice rents out her spare room to invalids to make extra money.
At the age of fifteen, Zindel was diagnosed with tuberculosis and confined to an adult sanatorium for eighteen months. This period of isolation gave him time for a great deal of introspection and contributed to his ability to sit back and observe the world around him. Zindel received a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and education from Wagner College in 1958, and went on to receive a Master's of Science in 1959. In college, he attended a lecture given by playwright Edward Albee. It inspired him so much, he decided to sign up for a play-writing course taught by Albee, who eventually became his mentor. Zindel wrote his first play, Dimensions of Peacocks, in 1959 under Albee's tutelage. During his early years as a playwright, 1959 to 1969, Zindel also taught chemistry at Tottenville High School in Staten Island. He wrote plays in his spare time and attended as many professional productions as he could.
In 1964 Gamma Rays had its premier at the Alley Theatre in Houston. Nina Vance, head of the Alley Theatre, liked the play so well she invited Zindel to be a playwright-in-residence during the 1967 season. During this time, he wrote his second-most popular play, And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, which was produced at the Mark Taper Forum that same year. In 1970 The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds opened in New York to overwhelmingly positive reviews. Zindel won the Pulitzer Prize and was finally able to devote himself to writing plays full-time. In 1973, Zindel married Bonnie Hildebrand. The couple eventually had two children, David Jack and Elizabeth Claire.
Zindel has also had a successful career writing fiction for young adults. In 1966 Charlotte Zolotow, an editor at Harper and Row Publishers, saw a televised version of The Effect of Gamma Rays and contacted him to see if he would be interested in writing a novel for teenagers. He agreed and published the The Pigman in 1968. The book was extremely well-received. He followed this with many successful young adult novels, which have won numerous awards. Zindel also continues to write plays, though none of his subsequent plays has gained quite the popularity or critical acclaim of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds. His most recent play (published by Dramatists Play Service in 2000) is Every Seventeen Minutes the Crowd Goes Crazy, about a family of children who are left to fend for themselves.