Greenman was born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in Miami, Florida. He attended Miami Palmetto High School and then Yale University where he worked on the Yale Herald. After Yale, he worked as a film critic at New Times newspaper in Miami and then moved to New York City to work as a freelance writer and editor. His journalism has appeared in such magazines as Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, Time Out New York, "The Forward" and other publications. In 2000, he joined the staff of The New Yorker magazine.
Greenman's first book of fiction, Superbad, was published by McSweeneys Press in 2001. The book is a collection of stories, most humorous, dealing with such issues as creativity, originality, and pop culture while also experimenting with fictional forms. Superworse, published by Soft Skull Press in 2004, reworked some of the material from Superbad while at the same time adding a more novelistic structure to the book, mostly through the editorial interventions of a character named Laurence Onge, an intrusive editor who bears some resemblance to Vladimir Nabokov's Charles Kinbote.
A Circle Is...
A Circle Is a Balloon and Compass Both: Stories About Human Love, Greenman's third book and second collection of short fiction, was published in the spring of 2007 by MacAdam Cage, a San Francisco-based independent publishing company.
In 2008 Hotel St. George press released a handmade and letterpress-printed edition of his book, Correspondences. The book, made by a letterpress studio called Blue Barnhouse, features an intricate book casing that unfolds to reveal three accordion books and a postcard which allows the reader to contribute to the story; the casing has part of the story on it as well. The first printing of the book is a limited edition; the project has already been reviewed (favorably) by the Los Angeles Times and Time Out. Stories from or connected to Correspondences have appeared or will appear in McSweeneys, OneStory, and the L Magazine.
Please Step Back
In spring 2009, Greenman published a novel entitled Please Step Back with Melville House Publishing. The novel, which tells the story of a fictional funk-rock star who shares some characteristics with such real-world celebrities as Sly Stone, Marvin Gaye, and Curtis Mayfield, was praised by Time magazine, New York magazine, the Village Voice, the Miami Herald, Publishers Weekly, and other publications.
For Please Step Back, Greenman also recorded a theme song in collaboration with the funk-rock cult figure Swamp Dogg.
What He's Poised To Do
In fall 2009 Greenman signed with Harper Collins: the first book will be What He's Poised To Do, an expanded paperback based on the material from Correspondences. In advance of the book's June 2010 publication date, Greenman launched a blog called LettersWithCharacter.com, which invites readers to compose letters to their favorite fictional characters. The book was published to enthusiastic critical praise: the Los Angeles Times called it "astonishing"; Bookslut said that it was "so beautiful that you feel mysteriously compelled to mail it to a stranger"; and publications from the Miami Herald to PopMatters to The Millions to the Rumpus to the New York Times also applauded the book's dedication to exploring the intricacies of relationships.
In October 2010, Greenman published "Celebrity Chekhov," a collection of stories that build on the work of the great Russian writing Anton Chekhov, while substituting contemporary American celebrities such as Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Jay-Z, Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Palin, and others for Chekhov's characters. In an interview with HTML Giant, Greenman said, "The effect of it is very strange, because these are very moving stories, and there are celebrities that mesh with them in fascinating ways. Sometimes the fit is perfect. Sometimes it’s intentionally, surreally bad, and sometimes the pleasure is in the disorientation."
In addition to his books, Greenman has penned a series of musicals that reflect on current-events happenings of the day (one recent example, If I Did It! The Musical, responds to the news that O.J. Simpson planned to publish a book speculating on the murder of his ex-wife Nicole, and others retell the stories of the racehorse Barbaro, the feud between Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell, and the troubles surrounding Britney Spears). He has also invented the Conceptual Art Registry (in which he generates hundreds of ideas for conceptual art shows and then licenses them to young artists) and authored a series of epistolary stories that challenge the validity of commentary by the conservative talk-show host Sean Hannity. As a collaborative artist, he has worked with the band One Ring Zero on their author project, with the poet Mary Anfinsen, with the singer/songwriter Boyce Day, and others. He is also the inventor of 3*TYPE, a revolutionary three-dimensional typographical process announced in McSweeneys in March 2010.
At the 2007 The New Yorker Festival, Greenman moderated a panel discussion on superheroes in popular culture with Tim Kring, the creator of the NBC series Heroes; the comic-book artist and writer Mike Mignola; the comic-book writer Grant Morrison; and the novelist Jonathan Lethem. He also conducted an onstage interview and performance with the indie rock trio Yo La Tengo. At the 2008 festival he interviewed the horror-movie directors Wes Craven and Hideo Nakata.
At the 2007 edition of Litquake, the San Francisco literary festival, Greenman moderated an onstage event, the Literary Death Match, for Opium magazine; participants included the novelist Wesley Stace and the eventual winner, the author Daniel Handler. He is also the regular judge for the Literary Upstart live fiction event sponsored by the New York-based L magazine.
Greenman maintains his own website, www.bengreenman.com, which formerly purported to be a community bank but does not any longer.
--Mirth of a Nation (2000)--More Mirth of a Nation (2002)--101 Damnations (2002)--Politically Inspired (2003)--May Contain Nuts (2005)--The Encyclopedia of Exes: 26 Stories by Men of Love Gone Wrong (2005)--Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans (2005)--Stumbling and Raging: More Politically Inspired (2006)--Rock and Roll Cage Match (2008)--Cassette From My Ex (2009)