David Samuels (writer)

David Samuels (writer)
David Samuels
Born David Samuels
Brooklyn, New York
Occupation Non-fiction writer, Journalist
Nationality American
Period 1991—present
Notable work(s) Only Love Can Break Your Heart (2008)
The Runner (2008)
Children Ben and Susannah

David Samuels (born 1967) is an American non-fiction writer, best-known for long-form journalism and essays. He is a contributing editor at Harper's Magazine and a frequent contributor to The Atlantic and The New Yorker.


Background and education

Samuels grew up in Brooklyn, New York; he received a B.A. in History from Harvard College in 1989, where he was an editor of the Harvard Lampoon. Samuels became a Mellon Fellow in the Humanities at Princeton University, where he received a Master's Degree in history in 1993.


Early years

Samuels' first article to receive much public attention was a controversial 1991 cover story on rap music in The New Republic; the piece—which contended that the primary hip-hop audience consisted of white suburban teens—has been widely anthologized. A later article he wrote on rap music for The New Yorker was reprinted in the Best Music Writing of 2000 collection, edited by Peter Guralnick. His work has also been anthologized in Best American Political Writing of 2004, Best American Science and Nature Writing of 2006, and other collections.


Samuels has been a Contributing Editor at Harper's Magazine since 1996 and has written over a dozen long features for The New Yorker. Several of his stories have also been featured on the cover of The Atlantic. His work hearkens back to the New Journalism of the 1960s—a blend of first-person observation, minutely detailed reporting, and a careful, literary attention to language.

Samuels' pieces for Harper's are often panoramic takes on a single events, including the demolition of the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, the riot at Woodstock 1999, a Donald Rumsfeld press conference at the Pentagon, and Super Bowl XL in Detroit. His features for The New Yorker and The Atlantic often focus on extreme subcultures and individuals with double identities.

His long profile of Yasir Arafat for The Atlantic in September 2005 was a finalist for the National Magazine Award in reporting, and was named one of the three most important articles of the year by the columnist David Brooks in The New York Times.

After publishing a controversial cover story in The Atlantic's April, 2008 issue about the paparazzi who trail Britney Spears, Samuels appeared on NPR's On the Media, and offered an apology for having hurt the feelings of those subscribers who objected to finding Spears on the cover of the venerable magazine. "Yes, I want to take full responsibility for destroying The Atlantic, 150 year-old pillar of American journalism," he said. "And now it's gone, thanks to me."

In the April 12, 2010 issue of The New Yorker, Samuels published a remarkable account of his contacts with the Pink Panthers, a group of quasi-legendary jewel thieves from Serbia and Montenegro who have reportedly stolen watches and jewels worth an estimated $250 million. The article, entitled "The Pink Panthers," was an idiosyncratic travelogue that detailed the group's cinematic robberies against the backdrop of recent Balkan history in a way that was part Hollywood and part Rebecca West.

The style of the Panthers piece earned Samuels a rebuke from Pietry Calcaterra – the chief of Interpol's Pink Panthers unit – who wrote a letter of complaint to the New Yorker stating that "The victim is not the man wielding the gun, however colourful his alleged derring-do. The victim in an armed robbery is the person lying on a shop floor with a gun pointed at his head."


In the spring of 2008, Samuels published Only Love Can Break Your Heart—a collection of his journalism—along with The Runner: A True Account of the Amazing Lies and Fantastical Adventures of the Ivy League Impostor James Hogue. The latter was based on his 2001 profile of the university confidence man James Hogue, in The New Yorker. In August 2009, Only Love Can Break Your Heart was issued in paperback.


In The New York Observer, critic Matt Haber called Samuels "a master of the new old journalism."[1] In the same publication, critic Michael Washburn described Samuels' work in The Runner and Only Love as "thrilling"; "With an intelligence and unsparing lucidity reminiscent of Joan Didion, Mr. Samuels has written some of the best long-form literary journalism of the past decade."[2] In a long review essay in The Nation, the critic John Palattella wrote that Samuels' achievement was "staggering" and compared his work favorably to that of Didion and Tom Wolfe: "Like Didion, Samuels investigates the vortex of American life, a feeling of weightlessness and existential drift that can swallow people whole, but he reports on it in an entirely different manner."[3]

Reviewing The Runner for The New York Times, Keith Gessen wrote "Samuels is an elite narrative journalist, a master at teasing out the social and moral implications of the smallest small talk." [4] Writing separately in the same publication about Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Jascha Hoffman described the collection as "a tribute to the twin American traditions of self-invention and self-deceit" and the author as "a brilliant reporter who has made a career of observing 'our national gift for self-delusion and for making ourselves up from scratch.'"[5] In The Los Angeles Times, critic Richard Rayner cited the author's "wonderful feeling for the weirdness and truths of self-contained worlds"; he continued, "the writing is Joseph Mitchell-meets-Elmore Leonard, and a whole subculture comes to life...Samuels is heir to an American tradition."[6]

James Hannaham wrote in The Village Voice that Samuels "has nearly autistic command of minor details and facts" and "achieves the glorious breadth and detail of a mural painter." [7] Contrary to most critics, Hannahan preferred Samuels' book The Runner to his collected journalism in Only Love Can Break Your Heart, calling the book "terse, passionate and complicated," while criticizing Samuels' political writing for "a creepy lack of bias."


Samuels is the father of Ben and Susannah Samuels. They live in Brooklyn Heights.



  • Only Love Can Break Your Heart (2008)
  • The Runner: A True Account of the Amazing Lies and Fantastical Adventures of the Ivy League Impostor James Hogue (2008)


  • The Best American Music Writing, 2000
  • The Best American Political Writing, 2004
  • The Best American Science and Nature Writing, 2006


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • David Samuels (disambiguation) — David Samuels is the name of: David Samuels, political science professor David Samuels (EastEnders), fictional character in BBC TV soap opera EastEnders David Samuels (writer) (born 1967), American author See also David Samuel (disambiguation)… …   Wikipedia

  • David Herbert Donald — Born October 1, 1920 Goodman, Mississippi Died May 17, 2009 Boston, Massachusetts David Herbert Donald (October 1, 1920 – May 17, 2009) was an American historian. Contents …   Wikipedia

  • John Samuels — (born March 25, 1961, in Galveston, Texas) is an American film actor, director, and screenwriter. He works under the stage name John Stockwell. He is a he has produced numerous films, including Under Cover (1987), Cheaters (2000), crazy/beautiful …   Wikipedia

  • List of EastEnders characters (1988) — The following is a list of characters first appearing in the BBC soap opera EastEnders in 1988, by order of first appearance. Contents 1 Kenny Beale 2 Elizabeth Beale 3 Johnny Harris …   Wikipedia

  • List of Canadian Jews — The Jewish population of Canada is approximately 385,000, with a majority living in either Toronto (200,000) or Montreal (100,000). Following the end of World War II, some 40,000 Holocaust survivors, stemming mainly from Eastern Europe, resettled …   Wikipedia

  • List of Heroes characters — From left to right: Micah, Niki, Nathan, Peter, Noah, Claire, Hiro, Mohinder, Matt, Sylar This is a list of fictional characters in the television series Heroes …   Wikipedia

  • Harold Legg — EastEnders character Portrayed by Leonard Fenton Created by Tony Holland and Julia Smith Introduced by Jul …   Wikipedia

  • Second Intifada — Part of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and Arab–Israeli conflict Clockwise from above: A masked P …   Wikipedia

  • List of political scientists — This is a list of notable political scientists. See the list of political theorists for those who study politics without using the scientific method.See also Political Science. Notable political scientists A* David Abernethy Comparative Politics …   Wikipedia

  • Bard College — Infobox University name =Bard College motto =Dabo tibi coronam vitae ( I shall give thee the crown of life ) established =1860 type =Private, liberal arts college endowment =US$180 million staff = alumni = faculty =224 president =Leon Botstein… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.