Kay Boyle

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KayBoyle.jpg
Born (1902-02-18)February 18, 1902
St. Paul, Minnesota, United States
Died December 27, 1992(1992-12-27) (aged 90)
Mill Valley, California, United States
Nationality American
Spouse Richard Brault, Ernest Walsh, Laurence Vail, Baron Joseph von Franckenstein

Kay Boyle (February 19, 1902 – December 27, 1992) was an American writer, educator, and political activist.

Biography[edit]

Kay Boyle was a writer of the Lost Generation.

Early years[edit]

The granddaughter of a publisher, Kay Boyle was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and grew up in several cities but principally in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father, Howard Peterson Boyle, was a lawyer, but her greatest influence came from her mother, Katherine Evans, a literary and social activist who believed that the wealthy had an obligation to help the less well off. In later years Kay Boyle championed integration and civil rights. She also advocated banning nuclear weapons, and American withdrawal from the Vietnam War.

Boyle was educated at the exclusive Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, then studied architecture at the Ohio Mechanics Institute in Cincinnati. Interested in the arts, she studied violin at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music before settling in New York City in 1922 where she found work as a writer/editor with a small magazine.

Marriages and family life[edit]

That same year, she met and married a French exchange student, Richard Brault, and they moved to France in 1923. This resulted in her staying in Europe for the better part of the next twenty years. Separated from her husband, she formed a relationship with magazine editor Ernest Walsh, with whom she had a daughter (born after Walsh had died of tuberculosis).

In 1928 she met Laurence Vail, who was then married to Peggy Guggenheim. Boyle and Vail lived together between 1929 until 1932 when, following their divorces, they married. With Vail, she had three more children.

During her years in France, Boyle was associated with several innovative literary magazines and made friends with many of the writers and artists living in Paris around Montparnasse. Among her friends were Harry and Caresse Crosby who owned the Black Sun Press and published her first work of fiction, a collection titled Short Stories. They became such good friends that in 1928 Harry Crosby cashed in some stock dividends to help Boyle pay for an abortion.[1] Other friends included Eugene and Maria Jolas. Kay Boyle also wrote for transition, one of the preeminent literary publications of the day. A poet as well as a novelist, her early writings often reflected her lifelong search for true love as well as her interest in the power relationships between men and women. Kay Boyle's short stories won two O. Henry Awards.

In 1936, she wrote a novel titled Death of a Man, an attack on the growing threat of Nazism, but at that time, no one in America was listening. In 1943, following her divorce from Laurence Vail, she married Baron Joseph von Franckenstein with whom she had two children. After having lived in France, Austria, England, and in Germany after World War II, Boyle returned to the United States.

McCarthyism, later life[edit]

In the States, Boyle and her husband were victims of early 1950s McCarthyism. Her husband was dismissed by Roy Cohn from his post in the Public Affairs Division of the U.S. State Department, and Boyle lost her position as foreign correspondent for The New Yorker, a post she had held for six years. She was blacklisted by most of the major magazines. During this period, her life and writing became increasingly political.

In the early 1960s, Boyle and her husband lived in Rowayton, Connecticut, where he taught at a private girls' school. He was then rehired by the State Department and posted to Iran, but died shortly thereafter in 1963.

Boyle was a writer in residence at the New York City Writer's Conference at Wagner College in 1962. In 1963, she accepted a creative writing position on the faculty of San Francisco State College, where she remained until 1979.[2] During this period she became heavily involved in political activism. She traveled to Cambodia in 1966 as part of the "Americans Want to Know" fact-seeking mission. She participated in numerous protests, and in 1967 was arrested twice and imprisoned. In 1968, she signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[3] In her later years, she became an active supporter of Amnesty International and worked for the NAACP. After retiring from San Francisco State College, Boyle held several writer-in-residence positions for brief periods of time.

Boyle died at a California seniors home in Mill Valley, California, in 1992. In her lifetime Kay Boyle published more than 40 books, including 14 novels, eight volumes of poetry, 11 collections of short fiction, three children's books, and French to English translations and essays. Most of her papers and manuscripts are in the Morris Library at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. Morris Library has the Ruby Cohn Collection of Kay Boyle Letters and the Alice L. Kahler Collection of Kay Boyle Letters.[4] A comprehensive assessment of Boyle's life and work was published in 1986 titled Kay Boyle, Artist and Activist by Sandra Whipple Spanier. In 1994 Joan Mellen published a voluminous biography of Kay Boyle, Kay Boyle: Author of Herself.

A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, in addition to her two O. Henry Awards, she received two Guggenheim Fellowships and was given a lifetime achievement award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Bibliography[edit]

Novels[edit]

  • Process (written in 1925, unpublished until 2001 )
  • Plagued by the Nightingale (1931)
  • Year Before Last (1932)
  • Gentlemen, I Address You Privately (1933)
  • My Next Bride (1934)
  • Death of a Man (1936)
  • Monday Night (1938)
  • The Crazy Hunter: Three Short Novels (The Crazy Hunter, The Bridegroom's Body, and Big Fiddle) (1940)
  • Primer for Combat (1942)
  • Avalanche (1944)
  • A Frenchman Must Die (1946)
  • 1939 (1948)
  • His Human Majesty (1949),
  • The Seagull on the Step (1955)
  • Three Short Novels (The Crazy Hunter,The Bridegroom's Body, Decision) (1958)
  • Generation Without Farewell (1960)
  • The Underground Woman (1975)
  • Winter Night (1993)

Story collections[edit]

  • Short Stories (1929)
  • Wedding Day and Other Stories (1930)
  • The First Lover and Other Stories (1933)
  • The White Horses of Vienna (1935) winner of the O. Henry Award
  • The Astronomer's Wife (1936)
  • Defeat (1941), winner of the O. Henry Award
  • Thirty Stories (1946)
  • The Smoking Mountain: Stories of Postwar Germany (1951)
  • Nothing Ever Breaks Except the Heart (1966)
  • Fifty Stories (1980)
  • Life Being the Best and Other Stories (1988)

Juvenile[edit]

  • The Youngest Camel (1939), revised edition published as The Youngest Camel: Reconsidered and Rewritten (1959)
  • Pinky, the Cat Who Liked to Sleep (1966)
  • Pinky in Persia (1968)

Poetry collections[edit]

  • A Statement (1932)
  • A Glad Day (1938)
  • American Citizen: Naturalized in Leadville (1944)
  • Collected Poems (1962)
  • The Lost Dogs of Phnom Pehn (1968)
  • Testament for My Students and Other Poems (1970)
  • A Poem for February First (1975)
  • This Is Not a Letter and Other Poems (1985)
  • Collected Poems of Kay Boyle (Copper Canyon Press, 1991)

Non-fiction[edit]

  • Relations & Complications. Being the Recollections of H.H. The Dayang Muda of Sarawak. (1929), Forew. by T.P. O'Connor. (Ghost-written)
  • Breaking the Silence: Why a Mother Tells Her Son about the Nazi Era (1962)
  • "The Last Rim of The World," in "Why Work Series" editor Gordon Lish (1966)
  • Being Geniuses Together, 1920-1930 (1968) (with Robert McAlmon)
  • "Winter Night" and a conversation with the author in "New sounds in American fiction" editor Gordon Lish (1969)
  • The Long Walk at San Francisco State and Other Essays (1970)
  • Four Visions of America (1977) (with others)
  • Words That Must Somehow Be Said, Edited by Elizabeth Bell (1985)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Remembering Harry Crosby: Kay Boyle, John Wheelwright". Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  2. ^ "Kay Boyle Biography". 
  3. ^ “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
  4. ^ Kay Boyle Letters at Morris Library, Southern Illinois University

External links[edit]