Bob was born in suburban Philadelphia in 1951. He was educated 12 years in Catholic schools, attended Penn State University and received a B.A. in English. He took many courses in Literature, Writing, and History but had no inclination to become a teacher. However, it turned out that the one career job he had was teaching.
After college, pressured to find work, he ended up at a religious goods store. His experience here became the source for his first novel, BERTHCUT & SONS, but it was the low point of his life. He quit after six months, applied to several graduate writing programs, and was accepted to the Columbia University School of the Arts. The real importance of this move was that he had to find a way to pay for tuition and living in NYC and returned to his summer job during college, cooking at Busch’s Seafood Restaurant in Sea Isle City, NJ. This job last for another thirty years, allowing him to live relatively uninhibited for a decade and a half: no car, no credit cards, no debt.
Columbia University fell by the wayside after three semesters. Then four times in the next seven years, Bob traveled to Europe. The experiences of his first trip are captured in THE END OF TRAVEL. He lived in Florence, Italy, for six months during the second trip. His third trip, the shortest, was made most memorable by the 7.0 earthquake in Salerno, Italy, in late 1980. On this and the fourth trip, he wrote a substantial portion of BERTHCUT & SONS, as well as conceived the idea for a featured column (and eventual book), A SARDINE ON VACATION.
Once the traveling ended, he returned to graduate school to get a Masters in History. It was time to think of a career, and teaching seemed the least objectionable way to make a living. When he started looking for a teaching job in 1988, there were few opportunities open with his complete lack of experience. He applied to several Waldorf schools in New York and New England, as well as a few Quaker schools, but had no takers.
It was in the summer of 1988 he met my wife, Donna Colliton, who had started waitressing at Busch’s. She taught Spanish in high school and, through her connections, he got his one and only teaching job, at Villa Victoria Academy in Ewing, NJ. He taught American and European History, World Cultures, Latin, Film, English, and Sociology. Like his cooking job, he enjoyed little interference performing his duties. However, teaching is a complex of conflicting agendas. Teachers generally get immense verbal but little real respect. His experiences at Villa, his own high school experience, and the stories told by his wife, his brother, and other teachers, inspired the creation of POPE SIXTUS THE FOURTH.
After marrying Donna in 1991, Bob’s writing production became prolific. He had written a few stories and a novel before then. Suddenly, he not only wrote fiction but began writing essays and, especially, film articles. By the end of the 1990s, he started finding journals for his work, the most important beingThe Sun, Film Comment, Bright Lights Film Journal, elimae (whose editors published THE END OF TRAVEL), and Gadfly. In 2006, his first three books were published: A SARDINE ON VACATION, THE EN OF TRAVEL, and book of stories called ODD PURSUITS.
It was around 2006 that Bob began to seriously write plays. He joined and still belongs to the Philadelphia Dramatists Center, and has written over fifty plays, including ten full-length plays. One play, RUN ZOLA RUN, co-written with Don Drake, was performed in 2007 during the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. The play was a satire on Philadelphia politics and media-run campaigns, which had mayoral candidate Michael Nutter in the audience for the first performance. In 2008, another play, THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS, had twelve performances in NYC at a small theater near Times Square.
The most important influence on Bob’s writing and desire to be a novelist is his Advanced Fiction teacher at Penn State, Paul West, an author of more than forty books. Indeed, West’s class transformed Bob as a writer and gave him the confidence to care about the writing arts as the most important thing in life. A sample of the way West’s fiction class worked can be found in the book THE MASTER CLASS (2001).
Most of Bob’s other influences come from novelists, the most important being Witold Gombrowicz, Flann O’Brien, Raymond Queneau, and William Faulkner. Equally important were the works of philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset, sociologist and historian Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, and social hhistorian Rene Girard. Lastly, the films of Stanley Kubrick, Sam Peckinpah, Fritz Lang, and Alfred Hitchcock, among many others, have been permanent objects of study and learning that have attained an importance that rival the authors mentioned above.