Thomas Louis Berger was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on July 20, 1924, the only child of Charles and Mildred Bubbe Berger. He grew up in the nearby suburb of Lockland, where his father was business manager of the local school system. Encouraged by both parents, especially his mother, young Berger read incessantly.
While in high school, Berger held jobs as hotel desk clerk and theater usher and worked in a branch of the Cincinnati Public Library. After briefly attending Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and the University of Cincinnati, he enlisted in the Army in 1943. Berger served as a medic in England, France, and Germany, and was stationed with the Occupation forces in Berlin following the end of World War II.
Berger graduated with honors from the University of Cincinnati in 1948 and moved to New York City. He became a graduate student at Columbia University in 1950, took Lionel Trilling’s famous course in modern American literature, and began a thesis on George Orwell but never finished. He also studied at Charles Glicksberg’s writers’ workshop at the New School for Social Research, at the same time as Jack Kerouac, Mario Puzo, and William Styron. Berger had decided to become a writer when he was sixteen, having been inspired by the urbane, erudite commentators on the radio program Information Please. At the New School workshop, he wrote a story a week for three months, beginning with melancholy, maudlin, simple stories in the manner...
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