D.D. Guttenplan was educated in the Philadelphia and Memphis public school systems and has a degree in philosophy from Columbia University, a degree in English Literature from Cambridge University, and a doctorate in History from the University of London.
During the 1980s he worked in New York city politics and in publishing,
where his proudest achievements were drafting the bill to name a
portion of Central Park "Strawberry Fields," commissioning of a
biography of the anarchist Emma Goldman, and the reissue of the WPA Guide to New York City
. He was also briefly lead singer for the extremely obscure punk band The Editors
, though their paying gigs all came after he left the group to study in Britain. However the experience was invaluable background for writing pop music reviews in Vanity Fair
the magazine’s early, unpopular incarnation as “the New York Review of Books
After working as a senior editor at the Village Voice, editing the
paper’s political and news coverage and writing a cover story exposing the corrupt politics behind the proposed redevelopment of Times Square, his enthusiasm for lost causes led him to New York Newsday, where he wrote a weekly media column and covered the 1988 presidential campaign. His reporting on the 1990 Happy Land Social Club fire in the Bronx won a Page One award from the New York Newspaper Guild and his investigative reporting on New York city’s
ineffectual fire code was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Following a year as a research fellow at the Freedom Forum Media Studies center at Columbia, Guttenplan moved to London in 1994. He has taught American History at University College and at Birkbeck College, and is a frequent commentator on American culture and politics on the BBC.
In 2001 Guttenplan’s interest in the use of the British libel laws to silence criticism lead him to write about the suit brought by the British author David Irving, who claimed no Jews were killed in gas chambers at Auschwitz, against the American academic Deborah Lipstadt, who had called Irving “one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial.” Guttenplan’s
account of the case, The Holocaust on Trial
, was described by Ian Buruma
in the New Yorker as “a mixture of superb reportage and serious reflection—about the role of Jewish identity politics in the United States, anti-Semitism in Britain, the historiography of the Cold War, and so on.” Neal Ascherson wrote: “Guttenplan
sat through every day of the trial, and no wiser, more honest, or more melancholy
book will ever be written about it.” The Holocaust on Trial
has been translated into German, Italian and Swedish.
When his friend and former teacher, Edward Said, became too ill to continue
lecturing Guttenplan arranged to film a series of lengthy conversations which,
after Said’s death in 2003, became Edward Said: The Last Interview
. The British journal Sight and Sound
the film as “the kind of portrait of an intellectual which is very rare,” while
(London) called it “enthralling, touching, melancholic and fierce.” The New York Times
it “riveting,” adding “Edward Said: The Last Interview
that a couch, a camera and a great mind can be all the inspiration a filmmaker
Guttenplan is currently education writer for the International
, the global edition of The New York
; he also blogs for the Nation
and the Guardian
. An enthusiastic cook and a talented eater, he has just completed his 12th marathon.
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