The Boston Globe

January 18, 2014

‘Famous Writers I Have Known’ by James Magnuson

By Eugenia Williamson

Is every writer a fraud? Ask con artist Frankie Abandonato, the protagonist of Magnuson’s bittersweet novel.




The New York Times

January 11, 2014

‘A Coarse Pleasure’ in Stories of Impostors

By Christopher Kelly

James Magnuson, director of the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas, has written a new novel about a con man, a famous author and some elements his Austin students might find familiar.




The Washington Post

January 9, 2014

Books: ‘Famous Writers I Have Known,’ by James Magnuson

By Elinor Lipman

James Magnuson’s cheeky ninth novel, a triumphantly preposterous fish-out-of-water campus caper, is narrated by a sleazy antihero who just might win the day.




Texas Exes Podcast

January 8, 2014

James Magnuson on the Famous Writers He’s Known

The director of UT’s Michener Center for Writers talks about his latest novel inspired by James Michener himself—and Whoopi Goldberg.




NPR: All Things Considered

January 6, 2014

Book Review: 'Famous Writers I Have Known'

By Alan Cheuse

Alan Cheuse reviews a new novel by James Magnuson, Famous Writers I Have Known.




“The single wickedest satire I've read in years. Flat-out hilarious (and disturbing, in the most genial kind of way).”

~ T.C. Boyle


“James Magnuson's mischievous comedy of novelists and conmen — professional liars both — is as subtle as it is subversive, as clever as it is courageous, as witty as it is touching. Readers will love it, but writers beware!”

~ Jim Crace


“This is a droll, understated, ultimately sweet-tempered but also keenly savvy send-up of the much-lamented (and misunderstood) creative writing industry in America. A copy could usefully be included in the welcome kit for all new MFA candidates.”

~ Richard Ford


“James Magnuson's new novel is an anything-goes mash-up featuring, among other hilarious elements, a legendary fist fight between two titanic authors on the Dick Cavett Show, a prank call to Gunter Grass, a novel called Eat Your Wheaties, and a whole flock of ‘circling buzzards’, including one who has translated The Divine Comedy. It's funny, it's poignant, it's scarily on-target when it comes to writing programs and dreams of literary immortality — and, best of all, it's out of its mind”

~ Stephen Harrigan, author of Remember Ben Clayton


Famous Writers I Have Known is the engaging story of an ingenious con-man who enters the world of Creative Writing with a mixture of innocence, nerve and talent. James Magnuson creates a character both cunning and warm-hearted. He describes the Texan landscape with a loving and painterly eye, and he recreates the world of writers and would-be writers with wit and knowledge and dark laughter.”

~ Colm Tóibín


“A gloriously far fetched tale, but alarmingly real to anyone who knows the weird world of MFA programs. Besides which, it's a shit-load of fun.”

~ Peter Carey


“Jim Magnuson has done something remarkable — written a page-turner about the life of a writer. In his insights into the particular Famous Writer considered here, Magnuson's peerless eye has not missed a single telling detail. His comedy is huge but it's also sly: just under the surface of this Portrait of the Almost-Artist as a Cranky Old Man lies a moving meditation on the quest for immortality that drives us all, the mad cry from Othello: ‘Reputation! Reputation! Reputation!’”

~ Anthony Giardina


“In the wildly intelligent, hugely funny and superbly plotted Famous Writers I Have Known, James Magnuson examines literary fame and writers' workshops through the sharp eyes of his hero, the irrepressible Frankie Abandonato. Readers everywhere are in for a wonderful treat.”

~ Margot Livesey


“Wildly entertaining and insightful, Magnuson's book is an unsparing look into the fragile, orphaned hearts of writers and con men alike. Its pitch-perfect narrator, Frankie Abandonato, is a hilarious, lovable American anti-hero for the 21st century.”

~ Cristina Garcia, author of King of Cuba