Charles R. Jackson

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For other people named Charles Jackson, see Charles Jackson (disambiguation).
Charles R. Jackson
Born Charles Reginald Jackson
(1903-04-06)April 6, 1903
Summit, New Jersey, U.S.
Died September 21, 1968(1968-09-21) (aged 65)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Novelist, radio and television writer
Nationality American
Education Newark High School, New York
Genres Fictional prose
Notable work(s) The Lost Weekend
Spouse(s) Rhoda Copland Booth (m. 1938–68)
Children 2

Charles Reginald Jackson (April 6, 1903 – September 21, 1968) was an American author, widely known for his 1944 novel The Lost Weekend.

Early life[edit]

Charles R. Jackson was born in Summit, New Jersey on April 6, 1903, the son of Frederick George and Sarah Williams Jackson.[1] His family moved to Newark, New York in 1907, and nine years later his older sister, Thelma, and younger brother, Richard, were killed while riding in a car that was struck by an express train.[1][2] He graduated from Newark High School in 1921.[3] He attended Syracuse University, joining a fraternity there, but left during his freshman year after a "furtive sexual encounter with a fellow member of his fraternity, who then spread word of the incident in such a way that only Jackson came in for public disgrace"; a fictionalized version of that experience was later incorporated into The Lost Weekend.[2]

As a young man he worked as an editor for local newspapers and in various bookstores in Chicago and New York prior to falling ill with tuberculosis. From 1927 to 1931, Jackson was confined to sanatoriums and eventually recovered in Davos, Switzerland. His battle with tuberculosis cost him a lung and served as a catalyst for his alcoholism.

Career[edit]

He returned to New York at the height of the Great Depression and his difficulty in finding work spurred on his binge drinking. His battle to stop drinking started in late 1936 and was largely won by 1938. On March 4, 1938, Jackson married magazine writer Rhoda Booth. They later had two daughters, Sarah (born 1940) and Kate (born 1943).[4]

During this time he was a free-lance writer and wrote radio scripts. Jackson's first published story, "Palm Sunday", appeared in the Partisan Review in 1939. It focused on the debauched organist of a church the narrators attended as children.[5]

In the 1940s, Jackson wrote a trio of novels, beginning with The Lost Weekend published by Farrar & Rinehart in 1944. The autobiographical novel chronicled a struggling writer's five-day drinking binge. It earned Jackson lasting recognition.[6] While working on The Lost Weekend, Jackson earned as much as $1000 per week writing scripts for the radio soap opera Sweet River, about a widowed minister and his two sons.[7]

In 1945, Paramount Pictures paid $35,000 for the rights to adapt The Lost Weekend into the a film version of the same name. The Academy Award winning film was directed by Billy Wilder and starred Ray Milland in the lead role of Don Birnam.[8] At the height of his career, Charles R. Jackson lectured at various colleges.

Jackson's second published novel of the 1940s, titled The Fall of Valor, was released in 1946 and takes its name from a passage in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. Set in 1943, it detailed a professor's obsession with a young, handsome Marine. The Fall of Valor received mixed reviews, and, though sales were respectable, was considerably less successful than Jackson's famous first novel. Jackson's The Outer Edges was released in 1948 and dealt with the gruesome rape and murder of two girls in Westchester County, New York. The Outer Edges also received mixed reviews, and sales were poor relative to his previous novels. Jackson's later works included two collections of short stories, The Sunnier Side: Twelve Arcadian Tales (1950) and Earthly Creatures (1953).

Later years[edit]

Throughout his career, Jackson continued to struggle with an addiction to alcohol and pills. Over the years, he underwent psychoanalysis to help him kick his addictions. After the success of The Lost Weekend, Jackson began taking pills (mainly the sedative Seconal) and drinking again. He later told his wife that unless he was under the influence of Seconal, he would suffer from writer's block and become depressed.[9]

In September 1952, he attempted suicide and was committed to Bellevue Hospital. He was readmitted four months later after suffering a nervous breakdown. After his release, he went on an alcohol and paraldehyde binge during which he wrote six short stories and began writing A Second-Hand Life. In 1953, he checked into an alcoholism clinic and joined Alcoholics Anonymous.[10] Jackson later also spoke about alcoholism to large groups, sharing his experience. A recording of his talk in Cleveland, Ohio in May 1959 is available (vide infra xa-speakers). He was the first speaker in Alcoholics Anonymous to address drug dependence (barbiturates and paraldehyde) openly as part of his story.

By the mid-1950s, Jackson was sober but was no longer writing. As a result, he and his family began struggling financially. He and his wife had to sell their New Hampshire home and eventually moved to Sandy Hook, Connecticut. Jackson's wife got a job at the Yale Center of Alcohol Studies while Jackson moved to New York City where he rented an apartment at The Dakota. He continued to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and attempted to begin writing again. In the early 1960s, three of his short stories appeared in McCall's magazine but Jackson still struggled with periodic bouts of writer's block. He later worked as a story editor for the anthology television series Kraft Television Theatre and got a job teaching writing at Rutgers University.[11]

A long-time heavy smoker, Jackson suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Towards the end of his life, he was admitted to a sanatorium after a relapse of tuberculosis. After his release, Macmillan Publishers gave him an advance for a new book. Jackson moved to the Hotel Chelsea and resumed work on A Second-Hand Life, a novel that he began writing some fifteen years earlier. Upon its release, the book received mediocre reviews but sold well.[12]

Death[edit]

On September 21, 1968, Jackson died of barbiturate poisoning at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City. His death was ruled a suicide.[13] At the time of his death, Jackson was working on a sequel to The Lost Weekend entitled Farther and Wider.

According to author and scholar Anthony Slide, Jackson had relapsed into alcoholism around the time of his death and had become estranged from his wife and children. Slide also wrote that Jackson had been closeted for the majority of his life and, in his later years, attempted to come to terms with his bisexuality. Slide maintains that Jackson "[...] identified as bisexual late in life" and began living with his male lover in 1965.[14]

Bibliography[edit]

  • The Lost Weekend (1944)
  • The Fall of Valor (1946)
  • The Outer Edges (1948)
  • The Sunnier Side: Twelve Arcadian Tales (1950)
  • Earthly Creatures (1953)
  • A Second-Hand Life (1967)

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ a b Guide to the Papers of Charles R. Jackson, circa 1920 - circa 1970, Dartmouth College. Accessed February 20, 2011. "Charles Reginald Jackson was born in Summit, New Jersey, on April 6, 1903, the third of five children of Frederick George and Sarah Williams Jackson."
  2. ^ a b Kirsch, Adam (March 15, 2013). "A Great American Biography". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2013-03-25. 
  3. ^ Jackson, Charles (1995). "Introduction". The Sunnier Side: Arcadian Tales. Crowley, John. Syracuse University Press. p. XIII. ISBN 0-815-60327-4. 
  4. ^ Crowley 1995 p.XIV
  5. ^ Austen, Roger. Playing the Game: The Homosexual Novel in America, (New York, NY: Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc), 103
  6. ^ Stryker, Susan. Queer Pulp: Perverted Passions from the Golden Age of the Paperback, (San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books), 14
  7. ^ Thurber, James (12 June 1948). "Soapland III - Sculptors in Ivory". The New Yorker: 48–58. Retrieved 11 July 2012. 
  8. ^ Slide, Anthony. Lost Gay Novels: A Reference Guide to Fifty Works from the First Half of the Twentieth Century, (Binghamton, NY: Harrington Park Press), 101
  9. ^ Crowley 1995 pp.XIX, XX
  10. ^ Crowley 1995 p.XXI
  11. ^ Crowley 1995 pp.XXII-XXIII
  12. ^ Crowley 1995 p.XXIII
  13. ^ "Novelist's Death Ruled Suicide". Meriden Journal. September 23, 1968. p. 7. Retrieved February 20, 2013. 
  14. ^ Slide, Anthony (2003). Lost Gay Novels: A Reference Guide to Fifty Works from the First Half of the Twentieth Century. Psychology Press. pp. 3, 101. ISBN 1-560-23414-8. 
Bibliography
Austen, Roger (1977). Playing the Game: The Homosexual Novel in America (1st ed.). Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company. ISBN 978-0-672-52287-1. 
Bailey, Blake (2013). Farther and Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson (1st ed.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-307-27358-1. 
Bronski, Michael (2003). Pulp Friction: Uncovering the Golden Age of Gay Male Pulps (1st ed.). New York, NY: St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 978-0-312-25267-0. 
Connelly, Mark (2001). Deadly Closets: The Fiction of Charles Jackson (1st ed.). University Press of America. ISBN 978-0-7618-1912-7. 
Gunn, Drewey (2009). The Golden Age of Gay Fiction (1st ed.). Albion, NY: MLR Press. ISBN 978-1-60820-048-1. 
Slide, Anthony (2003). Lost Gay Novels: A Reference Guide to Fifty Works from the First Half of the Twentieth Century (1st ed.). Binghamton, NY: Harrington Park Press. ISBN 978-1-56023-413-5. 
Stryker, Susan (2001). Queer Pulp: Perverted Passions from the Golden Age of the Paperback (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-0-8118-3020-1. 

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