J.C. Hallman grew up in Southern California on a street called Utopia Road. He studied creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh, the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Hallman’s MFA thesis was titled “Utopia Road,” which was the name of a story later published in Hallman’s short story collection, The Hospital for Bad Poets.
Hallman’s nonfiction combines memoir, history, journalism, and travelogue, and has been compared to Alain de Botton and Bruce Chatwin. His first book, The Chess Artist, tells the story of Hallman’s friendship with chess player Glenn Umstead. His second, The Devil is a Gentleman, is an intellectual apprenticeship with philosopher William James. Hallman eventually realized that “Utopia Road” had exhausted neither his utopian heritage nor his interest and he wrote his third book of nonfiction, In Utopia, which explores the history of utopian thought and literature in the context of visits to six modern utopias in various stages of realization.
Hallman has also edited an anthology, The Story About the Story, which proposes a new school of literary response – “creative criticism.”
Hallman has taught at a number of colleges and universities. He currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.