Todd McEwen was born in California and educated in New York City. He worked in theatre, radio and the antiquarian book trade. In 1981 he went to Scotland to study the violin, but it turned out to be a better idea to write a book: Fisher’s Hornpipe (Collins, 1983), a novel about a man who hates his job. McX: a romance of the dour (Secker & Warburg, 1990) is about a man who hates his job, Arithmetic (Jonathan Cape, 1998) tells the story of a little boy who hates school, while Who Sleeps with Katz (Granta, 2003) is about a man who loves his job but has cancer. His latest novel is The Five Simple Machines (CB Editions, 2013), a lament on the utter hopelessness of male sexuality.
How Not to Be American (Aurum, 2013) is a collection of essays on some problematic American traits, such as cheeseburgers and adults wearing shorts. He has contributed numerous short stories to Granta, where he has worked as an editor; one of them, ‘Cary Grant’s Suit’, has been broadcast on BBC Radio and on radio in America.
He has been a Hawthornden Fellow, and has held writers’ residencies in Orkney and Aberdeen, and taught in California, Arizona and North Carolina. From 2007 to 2010 he was a lecturer in creative writing at the University of Kent. This is strange because he does not believe that creative writing should be taught. He is known as a freelance editor and is proud to have brought several new writers to publication.