Sukenick studied at Cornell University, and wrote his doctoral thesis on Wallace Stevens, at Brandeis University.
After Roland Barthes announced the "death of the author", Sukenick carried the metaphor even further in "the death of the novel". He drew up a list of what is missing: reality doesn't exist, nor time or personality. He was widely recognized as a controversial writer who, frequently humorously, questioned and rejected the conventions of traditional fiction-writing. In novels, short stories, literary criticism and history, he often used himself, family members or friends as characters, sometimes quoting them in tape-recorded conversations. He did stints as writer in residence at Cornell University, the University of California, Irvine, and Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel. But his books were never best-sellers. Sukenick once commented that he had “only forty fans, but they’re all fanatics.”
He referred to his career as a university professor as his "day job". He taught at Brandeis University, Hofstra University, City College of the City University of New York, Sarah Lawrence College, Cornell University, the State University of New York (Buffalo), and l'Université Paul Valéry, Montpellier, France. His most prolonged teaching career was at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he was professor of English from 1975-1999.
He was actively committed to publishing and promoting the writing of other unconventional writers. He was founder and publisher of American Book Review, and a founder of The Fiction Collective (now Fiction Collective Two). Sukenick was chairman of the Coordinating Council of Little magazines, and on the executive council of the Modern Language Association and the National Book Critics Circle.
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