John Nichols Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

John Treadwell Nichols is an accomplished novelist and essayist whose work shows a deep concern for progressive politics. A deeply committed Marxist, Nichols expresses in his writings a belief that the earth will not become ecologically sound until there is economic justice and equality.

Nichols grew up in a world of contradictions. His paternal ancestors were quintessentially American. They helped settle colonial New England, and one of his forebears, William Floyd, signed the Declaration of Independence. Nichols’s mother, Monique Le Braz, was French and a descendant of Anatole Le Braz, a renowned writer. Nichols’s father, David G. Nichols, was a naturalist and a liberal, yet he worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and moved his family to segregated Virginia. Many of Nichols’s relatives were wealthy, but the author’s immediate family was of the middle class and had strong working-class sympathies.

In 1942 Nichols’s mother died of endocarditis while his father was fighting in the Solomon Islands. David Nichols remarried, and his son grew up in many states, including Florida, New York, California, and Connecticut. John Nichols attended Hamilton College near Utica, New York. After graduation, he lived for a year with his maternal grandmother in Spain, where he wrote his first novel, The Sterile Cuckoo.

Back in New York City, Nichols rented an apartment on West Broadway and worked on five novels at once, drew cartoons, and played folk music on Bleeker Street. His carefree existence was about to be radically transformed. In 1964, he sold his novel of young love, The Sterile Cuckoo, and traveled to Guatemala, where the violence and crushing poverty shocked him into becoming a Marxist. After the 1966 appearance of The Wizard of Loneliness, he turned to writing highly political...

(The entire section is 758 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Nichols, John. “John Nichols.” Interview by Phyllis Thompson. In This Is About Vision: Interviews with Southwestern Writers, edited by John F. Crawford, William Balassi, and Annie O. Eysturoy. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1990. This is one of the finest interviews available with Nichols, focusing on the inspiration and creative processes involved with the composing of American Blood.

Nichols, John, and Patrick Baron. “Bibliography of John Nichols’ Work.” In An American Child Supreme, by John Nichols. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2001. An exhaustive bibliography of all of Nichols’s works to 2001, as well as interviews, articles, and reviews by other writers about Nichols’s life and work.

Pfeil, Fred. “Down the Beanstalk.” The Nation, June 20, 1987, 857-860. Pfeil reviews the entire New Mexico trilogy as well as American Blood, giving an overall literary and political view of Nichols’s work.

Shirley, Carl. “John Nichols.” In Dictionary of Literary Biography: Yearbook 1982, edited by Richard Ziegfeld. Detroit: Gale, 1983. Shirley largely focuses on Nichols’s literary influences, with special attention to the New Mexico novels and Latin American Magical Realism.

Slovic, Scott. “John Nichols: A Portrait.” In An American Child Supreme, by John Nichols. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2001. Slovic, a close friend of the author, combines personal experiences with a critical and biographical approach to Nichols’s entire literary career.

Wild, Peter. John Nichols. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University Press, 1986. A pamphlet exploring the author’s life and work. Examines the relationship between Nichols’s writings and the character and political issues of the American Southwest.