My first love was and is Modernism -- my dissertation and first book were on the poet William Carlos Williams, who still fascinates me. Gertrude Stein, John Dos Passos, Marcel Duchamp, Djuna Barnes, and e.e. cummings are other Modernists whom I value for their play with words, technique, and vision. Looking back, I see that most of my work has been concerned with the way that visual values, from painting to film, from material objects and popular culture, appear in literature. After the book on Williams, I turned to detective novelists. Why? A former professor of mine, Kenneth Eble, asked me to write Dashiell Hammett, who appeared to me a kind of Modernist too. Then I got interested in Raymond Chandler, did a book on him, and finally wrote The American Roman Noir, incorporating the films that grew from these novels. But I don't have detective novels piled beside my bed; only the most innovative of them (Paul Auster, lately) spur me to write about them. Most recently I have written about the export of American popular culture and globalization: How ‘American’ is Globalization? (2006). I am currently at work on a book about the import/export of World Literature. After that, I'd like to write a book on 1950s noir that will include Frank Sinatra, Nelson Algren, the photographer Weegee, and Jim Thompson.
In my free time, I like to cook, garden, swim, kayak, see films, and take lots of photographs (I have exhibited). I live in a big old house with lots of fireplaces and antiques. I travel voraciously. My pets are a Prius and a Pinarello.