Daphne Merkin is a novelist and critic who has made a name for herself with her often-unnerving candor and forthright attitude towards issues of family, religion, money and sex. Merkin has been a staff writer for The New Yorker and a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine,“T” Magazine, Elle,and Tablet. SHE writes frequently for other publications, including Bookforum, WSJ, TLS, Travel & Leisure, Departures, and Allure
Merkin graduated from Barnard College Magna cum laude and attended Columbia University's graduate program in English literature. Her first piece of criticism appeared in Commentary when she was twenty-one; in her early 20's she went on to write a bi-weekly book and then film column for The New Leader as well as publishing book reviews in The New Republic (her first fan letter was from Woody Allen) and The New York Times Book Review. She published fiction and essays in The New Yorker, and in 1997 became a staff writer at the magazine, where she alternated writing the movie column with Anthony Lane as well as writing book pieces and essays on personal and cultural issues. Merkin has also worked in book-publishing for five years as a senior editor and then associate publisher at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Merkin is the author of four books: two novels, 22 MINUTES OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020) and ENCHANTMENT (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986), which won the Edward Lewis Wallant award for the best new work of fiction based on a Jewish theme and is being reprinted by Picador in July. She has also published two collections of essays: DREAMING OF HITLER, Passions & Provocations (1997)and THE FAME LUNCHES: On Wounded Icons, Money, Sex, The Brontes, and the Importance of Handbags, a collection of essays named as a New York Times Notable Book of 2014.
Her work has also appeared in several anthologies, including WOMEN ON DIVORCE: A Bedside Companion; WRITING OUR WAY HOME: Contemporary Stories by American Jewish Writers; SIXTY YEARS OF GREAT FICTION FROM PARTISAN REVIEW; TESTIMONY: Contemporary Writers Make the Holocaust Personal; and the recent anthologies, THE BITCH IN THE HOUSE and THE MODERN JEWISH GIRL’S GUIDE TO GUILT. One of her NEW YORKER essays, “Trouble in the Tribe”, was chosen for THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS of 2001, as well as THE BEST SPIRITUAL ESSAYS.
Among the wide-ranging topics that Merkin has written about for The New York Times Magazine and "T” sections are pieces on women’s obsessions with their handbags and with lip gloss; the concept of "Jolie Laide"; women's fear of aging and the lure of cosmetic surgery; gender issues; and visiting Virginia Woolf's lighthouse in Cornwall. She has also written profiles for the NY Times Magazine, including ones of the actors Liv Ullman, Cate Blanchett and Diane Keaton, as well as profiles of the psychoanalyst and writer Adam Phillips and the writers Alice Munro, Nuala O’Faolain and Tom Stoppard. Her essays have included musings on Hillary Clinton, Michele Obama, and the fascination with the Kardashians. She has also written profiles of Madonna and Taylor Swift for Allure and of Martha Wainwright for Elle.
Merkin has taught at The Writing Center at Hunter College and at the 92nd Street Y. For the past two years she has been teaching at Columbia University's MFA program and also teaches privately She has never learned to drive, a deficit which she hopes to address one of these days, and lives in New York City with her daughter.