Bernard Wolfe

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Bernard Wolfe (August 28, 1915, New Haven, Connecticut – October 27, 1985, Calabasas, California) was an American writer.

Biography[edit]

Bernard Wolfe entered Yale University at 16, and graduated in 1935 with a degree in psychology. He then enrolled for a few months’ additional study at Yale’s Graduate Division of General Studies. In 1936 he taught at Bryn Mawr’s summer College of Women Trade Unionists. [1] He moved to New York and between 1936 and 1938 contributed to Trotskyist journals such as ‘The Militant’ and ‘The New International’. [2]

In New York City the American Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky was looking for an English speaking secretary to assist Trotsky in Mexico. Wolfe’s friend the Yale professor Arthur Mizener provided funds,[3] and in 1937 Wolfe travelled to Mexico where he worked for eight months as Trotsky’s bodyguard and secretary, acting as the liaison between Trotsky and the John Dewey Commission investigation into the Moscow Trials. [4]

Between 1937 and 1939 Wolfe occasionally worked in the Merchant Marines. [5] In 1939 he moved to Greenwich Village, where he eventually drifted from the Trotskyite movement and met Anais Nin and Henry Miller. [6] Through them he found employment writing pornographic novels (11 in 11 months) for the private collection of Oklahoma oil millionaire Roy Melisander Johnson. He credited his pornographic efforts with teaching him to write to specified lengths while facing deadlines: “I acquired the work discipline of a professional writer, capable of a solid daily output.” [7] In 1941 he was the assistant night editor for Paramount Newsreel for a few weeks. In 1943 and 1944 he wrote war-related science articles for ‘Popular Science Monthly’ and ‘Mechanix Illustrated’ and eventually became the editor of ‘Mechanix Illustrated’. [8]

In 1946 he collaborated with the jazz musician Milton Mezz Mezzrow in writing Mezzrow's autobiography ‘Really the Blues’. The book was a popular success, introducing the mass audience to aspects of black culture. The book received a flattering notice in Billy Rose’s syndicated column [9] in October of that year and in 1947 Wolfe was hired as ghost writer for Billy Rose’s syndicated column. Wolfe worked on a further study of ‘negro’ culture in America, which was never published, but excerpts were published in American magazines in 1949 and 1950, translated for Jean-Paul Sartre’s Les Temps modernes and quoted by Frantz Fanon . [10]

In 1950 he had psychoanalysis with Dr. Edmund Bergler. Wolfe would return in his fiction to Bergler’s idea of “psychic masochism”. [11] Bergler’s ideas of frigidity and the importance of the vaginal orgasm recur in Wolfe’s presentation of female sexuality. [12]

In 1951 he published a short story ‘Self-Portrait’ in ‘Galaxy’ November 1951. Its themes of cybernetics, artificial limbs and prostheses, computerised warfare, masochism and voluntary amputeeism would all be expanded upon in his first published novel ‘Limbo’ (1952). Because Limbo was set in the then-distant future of 1990, the original British edition is titled Limbo '90. The publisher claimed that Wolfe had written "the first book of science-fiction to project the present-day concept of 'cybernetics' to its logical conclusion".[13] David Pringle selected Limbo for inclusion in his book Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels.[14] J.G. Ballard praised Wolfe's "lucid intelligence" and claimed Limbo helped encourage him to start writing fiction.[15]Boucher and McComas, however, received the novel poorly, calling it "pretentious hodgepodge" and describing its theme as "a symbolically interesting idea . . . never developed with consistent or convincing details."[16] P. Schuyler Miller gave Limbo a mixed review, describing it as a "colossus of a novel" while faulting its "endless talk."[17]

'The Late Risers, Their Masquerade' (1954), whose title plays on Herman Melville’s ‘The Confidence-man: His Masquerade’, was a novel about the hustlers, actors and drug dealers who people late night New York City. In 1955 and 1956 he wrote a number of television plays, some of which drew upon Wolfe’s experiences with Trotsky and as a ghost writer. His 1956 teleplay ‘Five Who Shook the Mighty’, a dramatization of the trial of five Romanians who had captured the Romanian Communist legation in Switzerland (the Berne incident), was the subject of protests by the Romanian embassy but was given a special award by the Crusade for Freedom. He wrote a monthly column in 1957 for Nugget, a men’s magazine. His third novel, ‘In Deep’ (1957) was a thriller featuring espionage, socialist hipsters and decades-old Communist vendettas played out in Cuba

The Great Prince Died (later republished as ‘Trotsky Dead’) (1959) was a roman a clef about the events surrounding the assassination of Leon Trotsky (called Victor Rostov in the novel). The book was well received by critics and reviewers, though many expressed doubts about the mixture of fact and fiction in the book. Trotskyites were highly critical of the book, particularly of Wolfe’s theme that Trotsky’s guilt about the Kronstadt rebellion was transformed into a masochistic death wish. [18] A partial dramatization of The Great Prince Died on Turnley Walker’s 1959 book program “First Meeting” [19] was instrumental in bringing Wolfe to live in California. [20] The Magic of Their Singing (1961) was another novel about New York City’s counter-culture, as university graduate Hoyt Fairliss explores the world of the beats and non-conformists.

In 1960 he began publishing stories in Playboy magazine, which paid him a retainer for a first option on his short work. [21] In 1961 it was announced that Wolfe was writing an (unproduced) screenplay for Tony Curtis about Hugh Hefner and Playboy Magazine. [22] In 1963 it was announced that Wolfe was writing the (unproduced) screenplay adaptation of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. [23] ‘Come On Out, Daddy’ was published in 1963, an expansion of bitter stories recently published in ‘Playboy’ and ‘Cavalier’ (as Andrew Foxe) about Gordon Rengs, a novelist-cum-screenwriter’s tawdry adventures in Hollywood. A short story collection “Move Up, Dress Up, Drink Up, Burn Up” was published in 1968. In the late 1960s he taught at UCLA. Harlan Ellison solicited two stories (‘The Girl with Rapid Eye Movements’ about Gordon Rengs and the generation gap) to appear in his 1972 science fiction anthology ‘Again, Dangerous Visions’. Wolfe wrote an autobiography, "Memoirs of a Not Altogether Shy Pornographer," (1972) (whose title alludes to Kenneth Patchen’s "Memoirs of a Shy Pornographer,"). 1974 saw the publication of his novel ‘Logan’s Gone’, a return to the character of Gordon Rengs, featuring contemporary politics with campus protests and Vietnam veterans.

In 1974 Wolfe signed a seven book contract with a recently formed Los Angeles-based publisher Wollstonecraft Inc. Unfortunately the publisher suffered financial troubles and Wolfe published no books after this. It remains uncertain whether several books may or may not have been printed, particularly because of variant titles used in a 1974 ‘Publisher’s Weekly’ article. ‘The Great Prince Died’ was republished with emendations as ‘Trotsky Dead’. A novel titled ‘Full Disclosure’ and advertised to appear in 1975 as an “international suspense novel highlighting moral conflicts among the men who hold the keys to government secrets” may be the Watergate –inspired novel ‘Lies’, whose publication corresponds with Wollstonecraft’s 1975 schedule, about an undercover government agent whose marriage falters as does his faith in the work he does. ‘Julie: The Life and Times of John Garfield’ (or ‘Body and Soul: the Life and Death of John Garfield’), a biography of the actor by Wolfe and Edward Medard was advertised in several trade journals throughout 1975 and 1977 but its publication is uncertain. A novel “Blood Money” and a collection of essays and reviews “Men Not Quite Without Women” were never published.

In 1975 he collaborated with Michael Blankfort on a play ‘Karl and Arthur’ about Karl Marx and Arthur Rimbaud.

Throughout the 70s articles and profiles [24] [25] noted a lengthy novel that Wolfe was writing about the Delano grape strike. In 1969 Wolfe had conducted a series of UCLA lectures on the proletarian novel,[26] and the Delano grape strike had been employed as background matter in several of the stories in Move Up, Dress Up, Drink Up, Burn Up.

Bernard Wolfe married the actress Dolores Michaels in Los Angeles on June 1, 1964.[27] The marriage was her second and his first. The couple divorced in October 1969.[28] They had twin daughters, Jordan M. and Miranda I., born in Los Angeles on July 23, 1970.

Bernard Wolfe died of a heart attack at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital. [29]

Selected works[edit]

Nonfiction[edit]

Novels and collections[edit]

  • Limbo (1952)
  • The Late Risers, Their Masquerade (1954) (reprinted as Everything Happens at Night)
  • In Deep (1957)
  • The Great Prince Died (reprinted as Trotsky Dead) (1959)
  • The Magic of Their Singing (1961)
  • Come On Out, Daddy (1963)
  • Move Up, Dress Up, Drink Up, Burn Up (short story collection)(1968)
  • Logan's Gone (1974)
  • Lies (1975)

Translations[edit]

The Plot (Všeobecné spiknutí) by Egon Hostovský translated from then from Czech by Alice Backer and Bernard Wolfe, Doubleday, Garden City, N.Y. 1961

Teleplays[edit]

  • The Assassin (Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse 20 February, 1955) (inspired by the murder of Trotsky)
  • The Ghost Writer (Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse 29 May 1955) (a political speech writer despises his work)
  • The Outsiders (Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse 18 September 1955)
  • Hooked (Justice 15 January 1956)
  • Five Who Shook the Mighty (Armstrong Circle Theatre 20 March 1956)
  • Pattern of Lies (Justice 25 March 1956)

Selected Non-Fiction[edit]

  • Floating Fashions (By Raymond Rosenthal and Bernard Wolfe, Cosmopolitan, March 1947).
  • Uncle Remus and the Malevolent Rabbit (Commentary , July 1949) | https://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/uncle-remus-and-the-malevolent-rabbit%e2%80%9ctakes-a-limber-toe-gemmun-fer-ter-jump-jim-crow%e2%80%9d/
  • Ecstatic in Blackface: The Negro as a Song-and-Dance Man (Modern Review, January 1950)
  • War Bonds: More Delusions of Security (as Christopher Bliss, The American Mercury, April 1951)
  • Are Taxes Making Liars of Us All? (as Christopher Bliss, The American Mercury, March 1952)
  • Angry at What? (The Nation, 1 November 1958)
  • The Man Who Murdered Trotsky (Coronet, July 1959) | http://www.oldmagazinearticles.com/Ramon_Mercader_murdered_Trotsky_pdf
  • The 'Darks' Against the 'Lights' (Esquire, April 1960)
  • Manners and Morals on the Sunset Strip (Esquire, August 1961)
  • Swimming in Red Ink (Playboy, July 1964)
  • Interview with Henry Miller (Playboy, September 1964)
  • A Pair of Jokers and an Ace," (Sunday Herald Tribune, 25 July 1965).
  • The Man Called I-l-l-y-a (New York Times, October 24, 1965) | http://www.davidmccallumfansonline.com/Man%20Called%20ILLYA.htm
  • The Step After Muscle (Cosmopolitan, February 1966).
  • 30 Years After Stalin's Great Purge (New York Times, September 18, 1966)
  • The Trouble with Harry (World Journal Tribune, 26 March 1967).
  • The 10 Percenters Of Hollywood (New York Times, June 18, 1967)
  • Our Generation Gap: Dialogue with the Mutant Young (Los Angeles Times, 6 August 1967)
  • The Real-Life Death of Jim Morrison (Esquire, June 1972) | http://parismojo.fr/2014/01/28/the-real-life-death-of-jim-morrison-by-bernard-wolfe/
  • Dearth in the Evening (Works in Progress #7, 1972)
  • Swiftie the Magician: Rendering the Fad of the Camelot Myth (Los Angeles Times, 22 September 1974),
  • review of ‘The Electronic Battlefield’ by Paul Dickson (Books West Magazine, Volume 1 #2, 1976)

Short stories[edit]

Many of his short stories were published by Playboy Magazine, and two stories placed in Harlan Ellison's Again, Dangerous Visions anthology.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Carolyn Geduld, Bernard Wolfe (Twayne's United States Authors Series, Volume 211), Twayne Publishers, 1972
  2. ^ Scott Saul , Freedom Is, Freedom Ain't: Jazz and the Making of the Sixties, Harvard, 2001, pp48 – 55
  3. ^ Alan M. Wald, The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left , University of North Carolina Press, 1987, pp133-135
  4. ^ Harlan Ellison, introduction to ‘Bernard Wolfe: Monitored Dreams & Strategic Cremations’, Again, Dangerous Vision, Doubleday, 1972, p310
  5. ^ Geduld
  6. ^ Wald
  7. ^ Bernard Wolfe obituary, AP News 30 Oct 85 | http://www.apnewsarchive.com/1985/Comic-Writer-and-Aide-to-Trotsky-Dies/id-b12117de6a19d040a0c8ae26aa8047e2
  8. ^ Geduld
  9. ^ https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1350&dat=19461029&id=EwokAAAAIBAJ&sjid=y_8DAAAAIBAJ&pg=6160,4834650&hl=en
  10. ^ Scott Saul
  11. ^ Alan. M. Wald
  12. ^ N. Katherine Hayle, From Hyphen to Splice: Cybernetic Syntax in Limbo | http://www.english.ucla.edu/faculty/hayles/Limbo.htm
  13. ^ Editor's jacket notes for Wolfe, B., "Limbo '90", Penguin: 1961.
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ J.G. Ballard, "From Shanghai to Shepperton," Re/Search, 8/9:112-124, 1984.
  16. ^ "Recommended Reading," F&SF, February 1953, p.73
  17. ^ "The Reference Library," Astounding Science Fiction, January 1954, pp.149-50
  18. ^ Trotsky “Psychoanalyzed” – Joseph Hansen, International Socialist Review, Summer 1959 | https://www.marxists.org/archive/hansen/1959/xx/wolfe.htm
  19. ^ http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1959/07/12/page/56/article/cultural-shows-crop-up-on-sunday-morning-tv
  20. ^ Harlan Ellison "Who's Been Keeping This Wolfe From Our Door", Los Angeles Times 10 November 1974
  21. ^ Gregory Feeley "Bernard Wolfe and the Novel of the Fifties," AB Bookman’s Weekly 3 August 1998
  22. ^ http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1961/12/09/page/21/article/looking-at-hollywood
  23. ^ The Village Square, John Wilcock, Village Voice 7 February 1963 | https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1299&dat=19630207&id=sdMQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=CYwDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6004,1888833&hl=en
  24. ^ Harlan Ellison, 1972
  25. ^ Larry Grobel "Bernard Wolfe: The Writer as Hero," Los Angeles Free Press 12 September 1975
  26. ^ UCLACommStudies YouTube channel includes recordings of 11 of Wolfe’s lectures https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjKUkdzUGagCzN2brEJ-moQ
  27. ^ California Marriage Index, 1960-1985. - California Department of Health Services Office of Health Information and Research. - Vital Statistics Section.
  28. ^ California Divorce Index, 1966-1984. - California Department of Health Services Office of Health Information and Research. - Vital Statistics Section.
  29. ^ Bernard Wolfe obituary, AP News 30 Oct 85
  30. ^ "Hypnotism Comes of Age". goodreads.com. Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  • David Galloway "An Erratic Geography: The Novels of Bernard Wolfe," Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction, VII (Spring 1964)
  • John Leonard, "Whatever Happened to Bernard Wolfe?" New York magazine 22 April 1968

External links[edit]