Harris, Mark (1922-) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections
Mark Harris was born November 19, l922, in Mt. Vernon, New York. Following military service from 1943-44, Harris became a journalist and worked on a variety of newspapers and magazines for the remainder of the decade, including the Daily Item (Port Chester, NY. 1944-45), PM (New York, NY, 1945), the International News Service (St. Louis, 1945-46), and in Chicago for the Negro Digest and Ebony (1946-1951). Harris remained active as a journalist for most of his writing career.
Harris completed his first novel, Trumpet to the World, while he was employed in St. Louis; it was published in 1946. Two years later, Harris enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of Denver and eventually went on to receive a Master's degree in English (1951) from Denver, as well as a Ph.D. in American Studies (1956) from the University of Minnesota. Harris' dissertation focused on the life and work of the American literary radical Randolph Bourne.
Even while he attended school, Harris continued to write fiction. He produced three additional novels, all of which were published by the time he received his Ph.D. Following the receipt of his doctorate, Harris began a long, productive career as a college educator teaching at San Francisco State College (1954-1968), Purdue University (1967-1970), California Institute of the Arts (1970-1973), the University of Southern California (1973-1975), the University of Pittsburgh (1976-1980), and Arizona State University-Tempe (1980-present).
Harris' best known work of fiction is probably Bang the Drum Slowly (1956), the second volume in his trilogy devoted to the fictional baseball player, Henry Wiggen. Harris adapted Bang the Drum Slowly into a screenplay for the 1973 movie of the same name. Although this book represents Harris' only true popular success, most of his novels have received a fair share of critical acclaim, notably Something about a Soldier (1957), Wake Up Stupid (1959), The Goy (1970), and Killing Everybody (1973).
In addition to his work as a novelist, Mark Harris has had a productive career in a variety of other literary genres. He is the author of numerous critical essays and articles and has edited the poems of Vachel Lindsay (Selected Poems of Vachel Lindsay, 1963) and the journals of James Boswell (Heart of Boswell, 1981). Harris has also written biographies of Vachel Lindsay (City of Discontent, 1952) and Saul Bellow (Saul Bellow: Drumlin Woodchuck, 1980). In addition, Harris has written three autobiographical books: Mark the Glove Boy, or The Last Days of Richard Nixon (1964), an account of Harris' coverage of Nixon's unsuccessful California gubernatorial campaign; Twenty-one Twice: A Journal (1966), an account of Harris' experiences in Sierra Leone as a member of the Peace Corps; and, finally, Best Father Ever Invented (1976), subtitled "An Autobiography of Mark Harris," in which Harris chronicles his life from late adolescence up to 1973.