With nearly 50 published works over a 50-year span, Charyn has a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life, writing in multiple genres.
Michael Chabon calls him "one of the most important writers in American literature."
New York Newsday hailed Charyn as "a contemporary American Balzac," and the Los Angeles Times described him as "absolutely unique among American writers."
Charyn's first novel, Once Upon a Droshky was published in 1964. Only with Blue Eyes (1975), the debut of detective character Isaac Sidel, did Charyn vault to wide attention and acclaim.
As of 2017, Charyn has published 37 novels, three memoirs, nine graphic novels, two books about film, short stories, plays and works of non-fiction. Two of his memoirs were named New York Times Book of the Year.
Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Charyn was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in Fiction, 1983. He received the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has been named Commander of Arts and Letter (Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) by the French Minister of Culture.
Charyn was Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at the American University of Paris until 2009, when he retired from teaching.