Novelist Lee Oser was born in New York City in 1958, of Irish and Jewish extraction. He skulked through public school on Long Island followed by two desultory years at the University of Colorado. Moving to Portland, Oregon in 1978, he washed dishes, drove a cab, and played bass in a series of rock bands including The Riflebirds, one of Portland’s best-known groups during the New Wave period. Returning to school in 1986, he graduated from Reed College in 1988 and went on to do graduate work in English at Yale University, which awarded him the doctorate in 1995. Around this time he returned for good to Roman Catholicism, having been confirmed on his own initiative as a teenager.
He taught at Yale and Connecticut College before landing at Holy Cross in 1998, becoming full professor in 2010. Oser has published three well-received books of literary criticism. His first novel, Out of What Chaos, was published by Scarith in 2007. Professionally, he is known for his efforts on behalf of the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers (ALSCW), a literature-advocacy group based in Boston.
“Throughout, Oser proves himself to be a master of language. Many times while reading Oracles one is struck by a particularly supple turn of phrase or a seemingly innocuous observation, disarmingly charming but laden with profound wisdom. He reminds us that ‘your story will be written by someone you could never buy, and you wouldn’t like the narrative.’ It is the great virtue of this novel that it manages to bring us to that simultaneously glorious and terrible realization.”
“All successful new works of art defy easy classification. They force us to stop and reflect not only on the work itself, but also upon our understanding of the labels and assumptions that we attempt to apply as we navigate their unfolding contours. Lee Oser’s second novel, The Oracles Fell Silent, appears to be an allegory, but it is unlike any other allegory that most of us will ever read...we need to stop and reflect…on how the Commedia might have looked to Dante’s contemporaries, with its jettison of Latin in favor of the vernacular. Would it not have looked something like this?”
--The Chesterton Review
What’s bracing about Oser’s work is its absolute lack of puritanism. Like Walker Percy, he suspects that Catholics might already be acquainted with sin. He fearlessly depicts sex, he reports the bad language, and he doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable humor….It’s by no means a realist novel, however, but something like a tongue-in-cheek allegory, as one begins to suspect when Sir Ted meets his match in Hurricane Gabriel and the mystery of Johnny Donovan’s death finally comes to light. Oser’s novel makes its readers ask which oracles they’ve been attending and what might happen in their silence. Young Richard Bellman—it’s worth thinking about what a “bellman” is—emerges largely unscathed, and with an essential quiet dignity. There’s no triumphalism here, no relegation of souls to heaven or hell. Oser’s gift is making it deeply attractive to come back to the sanity of worshiping what deserves it.
--Glenn Arbery, Dappled Things
“...what comes through…is the way that his characters use religious language; it is not forced, and sounds, to my ear at least, as how people who need language to express serious things, but who don't actually believe, are nonetheless forced back on the language of faith. When Bellman finally understands how Donovan might have met his end, the insight comes wrapped in a reflection on choice, fate, and the unknown ways of God—a meditation that is both subtle and profound. If Oser is…writing in a still small voice, maybe that's because it's in just such a voice that people typically speak of first and last things.”
--Gerald J. Russello, Books & Culture
“The Oracles Fell Silent is a seething indictment of contemporary preoccupations with fame, one written with humor and style…Certain to enrapture readers interested in rock and roll’s less seductive underbelly, Oser’s book offers a captivating and witty picture of the features and failings of contemporary culture.”