Ian Frazier Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Ian Frazier (FRAYZH-ur) is noted for his humorous essays on contemporary life and travel narratives that explore American history and geography—especially his work about the American West. He has been a frequent contributor to The New Yorker. He has written for the Harvard Lampoon and published in Harper’s, The Atlantic Monthly, and other magazines. He has contributed essays for many books, translated a book, written on the crafts of travel writing and journalism, and served as editor for The Best American Essays, 1997.

After graduating from Harvard University in 1973, Frazier looked for work writing for magazines. While living in Chicago, he briefly wrote for Playboy. He then found a job as a staff writer for The New Yorker, writing pieces for the magazine’s “Talk of the Town” section. In 1982, the unmarried Frazier moved to Kalispell, Montana, where he stayed for several years before returning to New York City. His time there led to his writing of Great Plains, a work which became a best-seller and brought him national attention. In 1996, having married Jacqueline Carey, another writer, Frazier again moved to Montana for several years, this time bringing his wife and two children to Missoula, while he developed and worked on his book On the Rez.

Frazier’s eclectic work as a journalist and essayist has led him to write about a variety of topics, from dating to parenting, from the sport of fishing to lampooning lawyers, and even spoofing on the lives and works of modern poets. His longer works of nonfiction—Great Plains, Family, and On the Rez—deal with his journeys across the United States and combine accounts of people he meets along the way with his own personal stories, arcane knowledge of history, and reporting about current affairs. His work is part oral biography, relying on the spoken words and memories of others, and part meticulous research of facts and documents. His longer works of nonfiction include copious notes on his research at libraries and other sources. He seems more a lively biographer of America, a chronicler of road journeys, than a historian. His sources might include a bartender as well as a book at a local museum.


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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Carr, C. Review of Family, by Ian Frazier. Voice Literary Supplement 129 (October, 1994). Lengthy review looks at Frazier’s portrayal of his family.

Cook, Nancy. “More Names on Inscription Rock: Travel Writers on the Great Plains in the Eighties.” In Temperamental Journeys: Essays on the Modern Literature of Travel, edited by Michael Kowalewskir. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992. Essay compares and contrasts Frazier’s Great Plains with Dayton Duncan’s Out West.

Mosle, Sara. Review of Great Plains, by Ian Frazier. The New Republic 201 (August 7-14, 1988). Lengthy review discusses the patterns that emerge in a book that appears to be filled with random travels.

Myers, Richard. Review of On the Rez, by Ian Frazier. Wicazo Sa Review: A Journal of Native American Studies 15, no. 2 (2000). Myers tries to reconcile what he knows of reservation life with what Frazier writes about it as an outsider.

Petrillo, Larissa. “Bleakness and Greatness in Ian Frazier’s On the Rez.” American Indian Quarterly 24, no. 2 (Spring, 2000). Review of On the Rez and the controversies spawned by Frazier’s depictions and account of contemporary American Indians.