He went to school in London, and attended Oxford university and, as a Kennedy Scholar, Harvard university. He wrote his doctorate at Oxford University on the poetry of John Ashbery, and has published widely on nineteenth- and twentieth-century American writing, including on Raymond Roussel. From 1991-1993 he was Visiting Lecturer at Kyoto University in Japan.
He is Professor of English in the Department of English Language and Literature at University College London.
He is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, and the London Review of Books.