Andrew Sean Greer was born in November 1970, in Washington, D.C., the son of two scientists. He studied writing at Brown University, where he was the commencement speaker at his own graduation. After years in New York working as a chauffeur, television extra and unsuccessful writer, he moved to Missoula, Montana, where he received a master of fine arts degree from the University of Montana. He soon moved to Seattle, where he wrote for Nintendo and taught community college, then to San Francisco where he began to publish in magazines such as Esquire, The Paris Review, and The New Yorker before releasing a collection of his stories, How It Was for Me. The New York Times Book Review praised it, commenting that "Greer's descriptive talents are immense."
One year later Greer achieved acclaim for his first novel, The Path of Minor Planets. The San Francisco Chronicle listed the book as one of the five most important literary events of the year. It is the story of a group of astronomers who from 1965 to 1989 met every six years to observe a comet discovered by one of them. This narrative frame explores the central theme in Greer's work: time as both the playground and stage for the bonds between humans who in their own way are all outsiders.
When his second novel The Confessions of Max Tivoli came out in 2004, it virtually turned critics upside down. In The New Yorker, John Updike wrote that the novel is "enchanting, in the perfumed, dandified style of disenchantment brought to grandeur by Proust and Nabokov." Time has dealt the protagonist a bad card: he is born into the world in the body of a seventy-year-old man, who becomes ever younger. The novel reexplores the old theme of love and the role of time, and is reminiscent of Vonnegut’s science fiction as well as Kafka’s parabolic figures, Grass’s picaresque Oskar Matzerath and Nabokov’s pathetic sensualist Humbert Humbert. The novel has appeared in over twenty-two countries. It was a TODAY show book club pick and won two prestigious awards: the California Book Award and the New York Public Library Young Lions Award for an author under 35.
Greer's fourth book, The Story of a Marriage, published in 2008, is a more intimate novel, set in just a few months of 1952. It is about a San Francisco housewife who opens her door one day to a stranger who makes an incredible offer, one than upends her world and reveals secrets and lies going back decades. The New York Times said of it: "Mr. Greer seamlessly choreographs an intricate narrative that speaks authentically to the longings and desires of his characters. All the while he never strays from the convincing and steady voice of Pearlie." The Washington Post chose it as a book of the year, and called it "thoughtful, complex and exquisitely written."
The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, Greer's fifth book and fourth novel, further develops the themes of love and time by presenting his main character with three versions of her life. Each morning, she awakens to the same room, the same city, the same aunt and brother and lover. The only change: the year in which they all are living: 1918, 1941 and 1985. Threads of war and disease connect the worlds, and Greta watches characters sometimes unable to live their lives, sometimes bound to repeat them. With sacrifices to be made in every world, which one would she choose? It was published in June 2013.
His sixth book, a novel entitled Less after the last name of the protagonist, will be published by Lee Boudreaux books in 2017.
Andrew Sean Greer has also published numerous nonfiction pieces, most recently one on the Presidio in the book City Parks, hose other contributors include Colm Toibin, Nicole Krauss and President Clinton. He has taught at a number of universities, including Freie Universitat in Berlin and the Iowa Writers Workshop. Greer has been a Visiting Writer for the French Cultural Ministry, a finalist for the Premio von Rezzori for a work translated into Italian, a TODAY show pick, a New York Public Library Cullman Center Fellow, an NEA Fellow, a judge for the National Book Award, and a winner of the PEN O'Henry Short Story Prize, the California Book Award, the Northern California Book Award, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Award. He lives in San Francisco with his husband in a house adjoining that of his twin brother.