Stefan Kanfer is a contributing editor of City Journal. He writes extensively on a wide range of political, social, and cultural topics. Kanfer's most recent City Journal feature, "City Lightsâ€ discussed the long line of literary personalities who made New York City their home, ranging from Washington Irving to Edith Wharton to Norman Mailer. Kanfer's previous articles include pieces on the personalities who created Broadway theater (later collected in the book The Voodoo That They Did So Well), â€œHoratio Alger: The Moral of the Story" (Autumn 2000), "Good Literature Lives!" (Spring 2000), and "And on the Right, Charles Dickens!" (Winter 1999).
Kanfer is the author of more than a dozen books, among them cultural histories (The Last Empire, the story of the De Beers diamond company) and Stardust Lost, about the triumph and tragedy of the Yiddish Theater in America. Several of his biographies have been on the bestseller list. Groucho focused on the most famous Marx brother, an aspiring doctor who got pushed into show business by his mother; Ball of Fire concerned the TV superstar Lucille Ball; and Somebody charted the complicated life and influential career of Marlon Brando. Kanfer's upcoming biography, Tough Without a Gun, examines the reasons why Humphrey Bogart has endured as an icon more than fifty years after his final film. Kanfer's novels include Fear Itself, a story of an Italian assassin; a sendup of the United Nations entitled The International Garage Sale; and The Eighth Sin, about gypsies during World War II. A selection of the Book of the Month Club, The Eighth Sin led to an appointment on the President's Commission on the Holocaust. Kanfer is the only journalist ever to serve on that governmental body.
Kanfer wrote and edited at Time for more than twenty years, during which he was a cinema and theater reviewer and essayist, and, for a decade, senior editor of the magazine's book review section. He is the main interviewer in the cinema documentary The Line King, a biography of theatrical caricaturist Al Hirshfield which received an Academy Award nomination. Before becoming a journalist, Kanfer wrote for the theater and television, contributing material to Victor Borge, Gwen Verdon, and Alan Funt, among others. The recipient of numerous awards, Kanfer was installed as a Literary Lion at the New York Public Library, has been a writer in residence at CUNY, a visiting professor at SUNY-Purchase and Wesleyan University, and was the only Time writer to win the Penney-Missouri School of Journalism Prize and the Westchester Writers Prize.
He lives in New York with his wife May, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College. They have two married children, Lili, an early childhood teacher at Yale, and Ethan, an NYPD detective.