An American author of novels and short fiction, he is known for works such as Gerald's Party, Pinocchio in Venice, Briar Rose, and A Child Again. His most famous work, The Public Burning, focuses on the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg trial through the lens of magic realism.
After graduating from Indiana University and the University of Chicago, he worked as a teacher and writer-in-residence at Brown University and other colleges.
His work falls into the genres of metafiction and fabulation.
He grew up in Iowa. He published his first literary work, The Origin of the Brunists, in 1966.
His 1977 novel, The Public Burning, features Richard Nixon as a character.