Daniel Manus Pinkwater was born on November 15, 1941
to Polish immigrant parents, each on their second marriage
. Daniel had two much older half-brothers and two much older half-sisters, but was the only child of his parents' marriage. The family moved to Chicago
when Daniel was quite young, California
when he was eight or nine, and back to Chicago when he was fourteen; Chicago seems to be the place with the greatest influence on Pinkwater's life. His father was rather eccentric
(buying Virginia ham
on the way home from attending synagogue
, having a Polish anthropologist
culture living with the family in the 1940
s). Reading his book of essays Uncle Boris In The Yukon
after memorizing his novels, the similarity between the fictional characters and Pinkwater's parents, Uncle Boris who takes pictures of people's feet
, and even his siblings is very apparent. I also notice that friends and locales from that book and Hoboken Fish & Chicago Whistle
, his collected NPR
commentaries, show up in his fiction.
After majoring in art in college, he moved to Hoboken, New Jersey, where he says he "pursued a career in fine art, for which I had no discernible talent." As well as teaching art at a boarding school, he was offered work in 1969 illustrating children's books, and decided to write the text himself rather than split the money with an author. His first book was published in 1970. (He notes, "It would take years, however, for me to respond to popular outrage and quit doing the illustrations.") He's written both picture books and chapter books, as well as one grown-up novel, The Afterlife Diet.
He married then-teacher Jill, and the two settled down with their pets, an Abyssinian kitten called Sadie and a Malamute called Juno. Juno got the Pinkwaters on a dog-raising track, and after the instructor at the obedience school they attended asked them not to come back because they were getting more attention and questions than the instructor was, the two went into the dog-training business for themselves for a few years. The Pinkwaters would eventually co-author a book on dog training called Superpuppy, which was still in print twenty-five years after publication. Jill also writes children's books, and has illustrated some of Daniel's.
In 1987, Daniel became a commentator on National Public Radio's All Things Considered; he also reviews children's books on "Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon" and hosts "Chinwag Theater" on NPR. The Pinkwaters now live on a farm in the Hudson River Valley of upstate New York and keep horses in addition to their house pets. He briefly wrote a comic strip, Norb, which was drawn by Tony Auth.
Daniel describes himself as fat, "similar to a walrus," and both his fiction and non-fiction are definitely pro-fat acceptance. Tom and Ray from Car Talk once suggested that the width of the American behind be measured in "Pinkwaters," and Daniel called in to concur, saying that the manufacture of more comfortable seats might result: "many cars have seats that are no wider than the seat of my exercise bike, and this is an insult." Food is definitely a major player in his work (both Fat Guys From Space and Slaves of Spiegel feature fat aliens who come to Earth looking for food, for example).
Pinkwater, Daniel. Hoboken Fish & Chicago Whistle (omnibus volume of the previously-published Fish Whistle and Chicago Days, Hoboken Nights) Xlibris, 1999.
Pinkwater, Daniel. Uncle Boris In The Yukon and other shaggy dog stories. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.