An American fiction writer, he is particularly known for introspective novels and short stories set in Botswana. His 1991 novel, Mating, won the U.S. National Book Award.
He worked for fifteen years as a book dealer before dedicating himself to writing.
His 1986 short story collection, Whites, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
He was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He later settled in New York state with his wife Elsa.
He and Michael Weithorn both attended Swarthmore College.