Stephen Koch (writer)

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Stephen Koch
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Born (1941-05-08) May 8, 1941 (age 82)
Saint Paul, Minnesota
CitizenshipUnited States Of American
EducationUniversity of Minnesota, City College of New York, Columbia University
Years active1964–present
SpouseFrances Cohen

Stephen Koch (born May 8, 1941) is a writer and teacher. He grew up in the college town of Northfield, Minnesota, the site of Carleton and Saint Olaf Colleges, where his father was a local lawyer.

Early life

Koch was born May 8, 1941 in Saint Paul, Minnesota.[1] His childhood was spent in Northfield. Koch's father, Robert Fulton Koch, died of complications of a rheumatic heart in 1951, when Stephen was ten. Stephen grew up in a middle-class home with his mother Edith Koch; his brother, the physicist Frederick Koch, and his maternal grandmother, Emma Pilling Bayard, a classic daughter of midwestern pioneers, who died at an advanced age when Koch was 16.[2]


Koch's early education was in Northfield's public schools.

After high school, Koch enrolled in the University of Minnesota, where he was a student from June 1959 until June 1960. In the summer of 1960, he moved to New York with the woman who became his first wife, Sheila Helen Shulman. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the City College of New York in 1963, and in 1964 took an MA in English and briefly pursued doctoral studies at Columbia University.

Literary career

Koch was an instructor in the Department of English at the State University of New York at Stony Brook from 1965 to 1970. Yet in 1964, Koch had begun to write and publish literary essays and reviews. When his writing came to the attention of Susan Sontag, he became her protege, and through Sontag his career was launched. His writing appeared prolifically for The Nation, The New Republic, Partisan Review, Esquire, and many other publications.[3][4]

In 1970, Koch published his first novel, Night Watch (Harper and Row, 1970). The novel was warmly reviewed in major publications in America, England, and Europe, and significant coverage in venues such as Life magazine and on PBS television.[5]

In 1972, Koch wrote and appeared as the on-camera host of Eye-to-Eye, a nationally broadcast PBS television series about art.[6]

Koch continued to write on literature and art. Among his essays from this period are "The Spirit of Soho" (Esquire, April 1975), "The Guilty Sex: Man and Feminism" (Esquire, 1975), "Guilt, Grace and Robert Mapplethorpe" (Art in America, November 1986), "The Secret Kafka" (The New Criterion, January 1984), translated into French as "Kafka Secret" (L'Infini, Autumn 1985), and "Caravaggio and the Unseen" (Antaeus, 1986).

Teaching career

Koch began teaching creative writing at Columbia University in 1977 and at Princeton University in 1978, continuing at Princeton until 1984, and at Columbia in 1995. [7] Between 1988 and 1994, he served as the chair of the graduate Writing Division in the School of the Arts at Columbia.

Later Life

On April 22, 1987, Koch married Frances Cohen M.D., a psychiatrist. They have one daughter. Koch is bisexual and before his marriage, had important liaisons with both men and women.

Peter Hujar

In 1987, when the photographer Peter Hujar died as a victim of the AIDS pandemic, he named Koch as the executor of his entire artistic estate. Since then, Koch has worked to usher Hujar's work out of an esoteric cult following into what he regards as its rightful prominence in twentieth century art. In Harper's Magazine, April 2018, Koch published an essay describing these efforts: "The Pictures".[8][9][10]

In 2017, a retrospective of Hujar's work, curated at the Morgan Library in New York, travelled to major venues in Europe and the United States. By then, the critical consensus numbered Hujar among the great American photographers.[11][12]



  • Hitler's Pawn: The Boy Assassin and the Holocaust San Francisco, Counterpoint Books. 2019. [13]
  • The Breaking Point: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and the Murder of Jose Robles. New York, Counterpoint, 2005. (Paperback 2006; printed in London by Robson Books, 2006). Translations: [Adieu a l’Amitie, Hemingway, Dos Passos et la Guerre d’Espagne. Paris, Editions Grasset et Fasquelle, 2005; La Ruptura: Hemingway, Dos Passos, y el Asesinato de Jose Robles. Barcelona, Galaxia Gutenberg: Circolo des Lectores. 2006.
  • Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Münzenberg, and the Seduction of the Intellectuals. New York, Enigma Books, 2004. (Fully revised and updated edition) [14]
  • The Modern Library Writer's Workshop. New York, The Modern Library and Random House, 2003. [15]
  • The Bachelor's Bride. New York and London, Marion Boyars Inc., 1986. Translations: La Mariée des Célibataires. Paris: Stock, 1988; De Vrijgezellenbruid. Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1988; La Novia de los solteros. Barcelona: Editorial Anagrama, 1989. [16]
  • Andy Warhol: Photographs. New York, Robert Miller Gallery, 1986.
  • Stargazer: Andy Warhol's World and His Films. New York, Praeger Publishing|Praeger, 1986. (Printed in UK by Calder and Boyars, 1974. Second Revised and Expanded USA and UK Edition in 1985 by Marion Boyars. Third USA and UK Edition in 1990, revised with a new introductory chapter). Translations: Hyperstar. Paris: Éditions du Chêne.
  • Night Watch. New York, Harper and Row, 1970. (Second printing by Calder and Boyers, 1971. Paperback by Harper and Row, 1973; Trade, 1975). Translations: Les Yeux de la Nuit. Paris: Editions Buchet/Chastel, 1971; Nachtwacke. Amsterdam: Mullenhof, 1973; Guardia Nocturna. Caracas: Monte Avila Editores, 1980.


  1. Wall Street Journal. February 8, 2019
  2. Encyclopedia
  3. Art City. October 15, 2013
  4. Pif Magazine. April 2004
  5. The NYPR Archive Collections. February 14, 1982
  6. The Paley Center for Media
  7. Penguin Random House
  8. Harper's Magazine, May 2018
  9. The New Yorker. January 29, 2018
  10. The New York Times Style Magazine. April 17, 2018
  11. The New York Times. February 8, 2018
  12. The New York Times Style Magazine. February 2, 2016
  13. Smithsonian. January 9, 2019
  14. New York Review Books
  15. Counterpoint Press
  16. The New York Times. November 23, 1986

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