Geoffrey O'Brien

Geoffrey O'Brien (born 1948 New York City, New York) is an American poet, editor, book and film critic, translator, and cultural historian. In 1992, he joined the staff of the Library of America as executive editor, becoming editor-in-chief in 1998.[1]

For the California poet, see Geoffrey G. O'Brien
Geoffrey O'Brien
Born1948 (age 7071)
New York City, New York, United States
OccupationPoet, editor, critic, translator, historian


O'Brien was born in New York City and grew up in Great Neck, Long Island. His mother, Margaret O'Brien, née Owens, was a theater actress, and his father was Joseph O'Brien, one of the original WMCA Good Guys.

O'Brien began publishing poetry and criticism in the 1960s. He has been a contributor to Artforum, Film Comment, The New York Times and The New York Times Book Review, Village Voice, New Republic, Bookforum, and, especially, to the New York Review of Books.[2] He has also been published in numerous other publications, including Filmmaker, American Heritage, The Armchair Detective, Bomb, Boston Globe, Fence, GQ, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, Men’s Vogue, Mother Jones, The Nation, Newsday, and Slate, and has contributed many essays for liner notes for The Criterion Collection. In addition, his work has been included in numerous anthologies.

He has served as editor of The Reader's Catalog (1987–1991), a faculty member of The Writing Program at The New School, a contributing editor at Open City, and was a member of the selection committee for The New York Film Festival in 2003.

Literary style

Erudite but playful, O’Brien’s style as an essayist and reviewer is unique. Highly associative in approach, his dense, highbrow prose is often brought to bear upon the worlds of low-budget exploitation films and pulp fiction as well as more upscale and respectable venues of the cinematic, theater, literary, or popular music worlds. These wide-ranging pieces have been described as idiosyncratic “prose poems” [3][4] and tend towards partial autobiography in which he recollects youthful experiences as reader or viewer which — although they may or may not have been shared by his own readership — can lead deeply into unexpected aspects of the material at hand.

Awards and accolades


Reviews and cultural criticism

  • O'Brien, Geoffrey (1981). Hardboiled America: Lurid Paperbacks and the Masters of Noir. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-80773-2. (reprint 1997)
  • O'Brien, Geoffrey (1988). Dreamtime: Chapters from the Sixties. Counterpoint. ISBN 978-1-58243-191-8. (reprint Counterpoint Press, 2002, ISBN 978-1-58243-191-8)
  • O'Brien, Geoffrey (1995). The Phantom Empire: Movies in the Mind of the Twentieth Century. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-31296-6.
  • O'Brien, Geoffrey (1998). The Times Square Story. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-31846-3.
  • O'Brien, Geoffrey (1998), Bardic Deadlines: Reviewing Poetry 1984–1995, University of Michigan Press.
  • O'Brien, Geoffrey (2000). The Browser's Ecstasy: A Meditation on Reading. Counterpoint. ISBN 978-1-58243-245-8. (reprint Counterpoint Press, 2003, ISBN 978-1-58243-245-8)
  • O'Brien, Geoffrey (2001), Doing It: Five Performing Arts, New York Review of Books (One of 5 authors)
  • O'Brien, Geoffrey (2002). Castaways of the image planet: movies, show business, public spectacle. Counterpoint. ISBN 978-1-58243-190-1.
  • O'Brien, Geoffrey (2004). Sonata for Jukebox : Pop Music, Memory, and the Imagined Life. Counterpoint. ISBN 978-1-58243-329-5. (Paperback title: Sonata for Jukebox: An Autobiography of My Ears, Counterpoint Press, 2005, ISBN 978-1-58243-329-5)


  • O'Brien, Geoffrey (2010), The Fall of the House of Walworth: Madness and Murder in Gilded Age America, Henry Holt.


  • O'Brien, Geoffrey (1983), Maciste in the valley of the Pagans, Three Bears.
  • O'Brien, Geoffrey (1989). A Book of Maps. Red Dust. ISBN 978-0-87376-061-4.
  • O'Brien, Geoffrey (1994). The Hudson Mystery. Red Dust. ISBN 978-0-87376-078-2.
  • O'Brien, Geoffrey (1996). Floating City: Selected Poems 1978–1995. Talisman House. ISBN 978-1-883689-38-4.
  • O'Brien, Geoffrey (2002). A View of Buildings and Water. Salt Publishing. ISBN 978-1-876857-55-4.
  • O'Brien, Geoffrey (2005). Red Sky Café. Salt Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84471-071-3.
  • O'Brien, Geoffrey (2015), In a Mist

Anthology contributor


  • The Reader's Catalog: An Annotated Listing of the 40,000 Best Books in Print in Over 300 Categories (1989; Second Edition, 1997)
  • American Poetry: The Twentieth Century, The Library of America, 2000
    • Volume One: Henry Adams to Dorothy Parker
    • Volume Two: E.E. Cummings to May Swenson
  • O'Brien, Geoffrey (2004). Bartlett's Poems for Occasions. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-73501-8.


  1. "Geoffrey O'Brien biography, plus links to book reviews and excerpts". Retrieved 6 October 2014.
  2. "Geoffrey O'Brien - The New York Review of Books". Retrieved 6 October 2014.
  3. Review of The Browser's Ecstasy, New York Magazine, 22 May 2000.
  4. Menand, Louis, Review of The Phantom Empire, The New Yorker.
  5. "Geoffrey O'Brien". Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
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