Lance Olsen was born in New Jersey in 1956. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1978), a Master of Fine Arts from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (1980), and a Master of Arts (1982) and Doctorate (1985) from the University of Virginia. Olsen then taught at various American universities, including for ten years at the University of Idaho. A semester abroad, travel grants, and the Fulbright Program took him to London and Turku, Finland. In 2002, he assumed the chair of the administrative board of Fiction Collective Two, an independent press dedicated since its founding in 1974 to publishing innovative fiction. Olsen has taught experimental narration in theory and practice at the University of Utah since 2007.
His broad literary oeuvre includes eleven novels, a hypertext, four collections of short stories, a volume of poetry, and two anti-textbooks on experimental writing. Pieces by him have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including »Fiction International«, the »Iowa Review«, and »Best American Non-Required Reading«. Olsen gained renown with his fictional biographies, like »Nietzsche’s Kisses« (2006) and »Head in Flames« (2009), for which he conducts extensive historical research. »Head in Flames«is a collage novel in which three historical persons speak in alternating sections. While in July 1890 Vincent van Gogh considers whether to commit suicide, Theo van Gogh is also spoken of; his route to work is described on the day when Mohammed Bouveri murdered him in revenge for his short film criticizing Muslim oppression of women. The attacker also has his chance to speak. The effect of this composition is almost more musical than narrative. One review called »Head in Flames« an »important book« whose true success lay not in criticism of the many forms of intolerance, but in the affirmation of art as salvation. In 2005, the Iowa Review Web posted in the Internet a hypermedia version of Olsen’s novel »10:01«; the new version was composed in collaboration with the artist Tim S. Guthrie and transposes the original text from a primarily temporal into a spatial reading experience. In it, a wealth of mini-tales in various styles and genres provide the reader with glimpses of the thoughts of almost fifty moviegoers ten minutes before the film begins. In 2013, partly in the context of a fellowship at Berlin’s American Academy, Olsen worked on his most recent text, »Theories of Forgetting« (2014).
Lance Olsen lives in Utah.