Dale Peck (born 1967) is an American novelist, critic, and columnist. His 2009 novel, Sprout, won the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Children's/Young Adult literature, and was a finalist for the Stonewall Book Award in the Children's and Young Adult Literature category.
Peck was born on Long Island, New York. He was raised in Kansas and attended Drew University in New Jersey, graduating in 1989. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1995. He currently teaches creative writing at The New School in New York City. He is openly gay and married.
Peck's first novel, Martin and John, was published in 1993. His subsequent work, which continued to explore issues of identity and sexuality, were met with more mixed reviews. Salon.com described Now It's Time to Say Goodbye as a "hyperpotboiler" with a plot "both sensational and preposterous". The New York Review of Books called Martin and John "surprisingly sophisticated", but said Now It's Time to Say Goodbye "collapsed under the weight of its overladen allegorical structures" and diagnosed Peck's fiction as a "seesaw between a strained "'lyricism' ... and cliché".
Peck has also drawn attention as a critic. His reviews for The New Republic, while establishing him as one of the most influential commentators on books, also garnered the opprobrium of the literary establishment for their negative treatment of some of the most highly regarded writers at the time, but also their underlying questioning of what would be the larger project of turn-of-the-century American letters. His most notorious line, "Rick Moody is the worst writer of his generation," set the tone for a collection of essays published under the title Hatchet Jobs.
His critics attacked in turn, with the editors of Brooklyn-based n+1 magazine writing:
With the emergence of the ridiculous Dale Peck, the method of Wieseltier's literary salon reached its reductio ad absurdum. Peck smeared the walls with shit, and bankrupted their authority for all time to come. So many forms of extremism turn into their opposite at the terminal stage. Thus The New Republic’s supposed brief for dry, austere, high-literary value—manifesting itself for years in a baffled rage against everything new or confusing—led to Peck’s auto-therapeutic wetness (as self-pity is the refuge of bullies) and hatred of classic modernism (which, to philistines, will always be new and confusing).
Peck's output has been steady and varied; his recent work includes forays into pop culture, film and television criticism, queer theory and children's literature. He is currently a columnist for Out.
In May 2011, Peck's criticism of Jewish-American literature in which he claimed "[I]f I have to read another book about the Holocaust, I’ll kill a Jew myself" prompted a public outcry. His editors later removed the statement from his article.
In 2016, Peck was named editor-in-chief of the revived online Evergreen Review. “I want the magazine to be something between a community and a place where lone wolves hang out,” Peck said at the site's launch in March 2017. “I have a preference for experimental literature, but for genuinely experimental literature as opposed to literature that says it is experimental but it is really just repeating someone else’s experiment from 70 years ago. All good literature is experimental, at least in the sense that it invents its own terms.”
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