Richard Elman, novelist, poet, journalist, teacher
April 23, 1934-December 31, 1997
Richard Elman was born in Brooklyn, New York. His grandparents were Yiddish-speaking and came to this country at the turn of the 20th century from Russo-Poland. His boyhood is captured in his comic novel Fredi & Shirl & The Kids: An Autobiography In Fables.
At Syracuse University, (B. A., 1955), Elman's teachers, Daniel Curley and Donald Dike, encouraged his writing. At Syracuse, Elman met Emily Schorr, who became a painter. They married in 1955, and in 1964 their daughter Margaret was born. The marriage ended in divorce. In 1979, Elman married Alice (Neufeld) Goode, a teacher, who was his wife until his death. Their daughter Lila was born in 1981.
Elman thought of himself as a socialist and his journalism reflected his concerns about social and political injustice.
Stanford University and Its Later Influence
In the 1930's, Winters had been a friend of David Lamson who had worked at Stanford University Press. Winters defended his friend when Lamson was accused and convicted of killing his wife; after serving time on death row, Lamson's case was re-tried and he was freed after two more trials and hung juries. Elman became familiar with the events, and the crime became the springboard for his novel, An Education In Blood. Winters was portrayed in the novel through the character of Jim Hill
New York and the 1960's
Elman returned to New York and worked for the Pacifica Foundation, WBAI, as a public affairs director from 1961-64. He helped Bob Fass, a boyhood friend, get work there. At WBAI Elman produced radio documentaries, such as a sound montage, "The Last Days of Hart Crane" that had tape-recorded interviews of people who had been close to the poet during his lifetime. The poet Robert Lowell, came to the studio to listen to the montage, and later Lowell contributed to a second montage on Ford Madox Ford's American years.
In 1965 Elman worked as a research associate for the School of Social Work Research Center at Columbia University. His work of non-fiction, The Poorhouse State: The American Way of Life On Public Assistance evolved from those experiences where he spent two years interviewing people on relief in New York's Lower East Side.
In 1967, Elman published another book of reportage Ill-at-Ease in Compton about the mechanisms of discrimination at work in Compton, California a city with a large lower-middle class population.
Between 1963 and 1966 much of Elman's income was derived from writing free-lance pieces for magazines, including Cavalier Magazine, Commonweal, the Nation Magazine, and the New Republic. He also reviewed books for the New York Times.
In 1968 Elman published The 28th Day of Elul, the first of a trilogy of novels, followed by Lilo's Diary,(1968) and The Reckoning (1969). Each of the novels tells the same story from a different point of view about the fate of the Yagodahs, a Hungarian family at the end of World War II. Elie Wiesel said of The 28th Day of Elul in his review for the New York Times: Born and raised in New York City, Richard M. Elman was barely 10 when the nightmare ended in Europe. Yet he evokes some of its living fragmentary images as though his voice came from within.
Nicaragua and the 1970's and 80's Elman worked as a journalist in Central America, covering the war in Nicaragua against the Somoza regime. He travelled on assignment for GEO Magazine with the photojournalist Susan Meiselas and his text accompanied her photos of the Sandinistan rebels.Cite error: A
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Elman died shortly before the publication of his memoir, Namedropping: Mostly Literary Memoirs. The book consists of brief portraits of people he met, including Bashevis Singer, Faye Dunaway, and Little Richard Penniman.
At various times over the course of his career he taught creativre writing at Bennington College Summer Writing Workshop, Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence, The University of Pennsylvania, Notre Dame, and SUNY Stony Brook.
Tar Beach (1991)
Disco Frito 1988
The Menu Cyper (1982)
The Breadfruit Lotteries (1980)
Little Lives (under the pseudonym John Howland Spyker) (1978)
Crossing Over and Other Tales (1973)
Fredi & Shirl & The Kids (1972)
An Education In Blood (1971)
The Reckoning (1969)
The 28th Day of Elul (1967)
A Coat for the Tsar (1958)
Namedropping: Mostly Literary Memoirs (1998)
Cocktails at Somoza's: a reporter's sketchbook of events in revolutionary Nicaragua (1981)
Uptight with the Rolling Stones: A Novelist's Report (1973)
Charles Booth's London: A Portrait of the Poor at the Turn of the Century, Drawn from His 'Life and Labor of the People in London' by Albert Fried and Richard M. Elman, editors (1968)
Ill-at-Ease in Compton (1967)
The Poorhouse State: The American Way of Life on Public Assistance (1966)
Cathedral-Tree-Train and Other Poems (1992)
In Chontales (1980)
Homage to Fats Navarro (1978)
The Man Who Ate New York (1975)
The Girl from Samos (translation)in Menander: The Grouch, Desperately Seeking Justice, CLosely Cropped Locks, The Girl from Samos, and The Shield eds. David Slavitt and Palmer Bovie (1998)
The Phoenician Women (translation) in Euripides, 3: Alcestis, Daughters of Troy, The Phoenician Women, Iphigenia at Aulis, and Rhesus eds. David Slavitt and Palmer Bovie (1998)
1.Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Volume 3, Gale Research Company 1986, p. 70
2.Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Volume 3, Gale Research Company, 1986, p. 73
3. CAAS, Vol. 3 p. 79
4. New York Times Obituaries by Wolfgang Saxon, January 2, 1998.
5. Namedropping: Mostly Literary Memoirs, "Yvor Winters, Thom Gunn, and Others" (State University of New York Press: 1999) pp. 15-23.
6. Namedropping: Mostly Literary Memoirs, "David Lamson" pp. 38-45.
7. Namedropping: Mostly Literary Memoirs, "David Lamson," p. 44
8. Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Vol. 3, p. 75
9. Namedropping: Mostly Literary Memoirs, "Yvor Winters, Thom Gunn, and Others," pp. 16-22.
10. Namedropping: Mostly Literary Memoirs, "Tillie Olsen," pp. 27-33.
11. See also, "Poverty, Injustice and the Welfare State," by Richard A. Cloward and Richard Elman, The Nation, February 28 and March 7, 1966, and "If You Were On Welfare," by Richard Elman, Saturday Review, May 23, 1970.
12. Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Vol. 3. p. 74.
Internal Links 13. "Legacy of Evil" The New York Times Book Review, May 28, 1967.
14. "Nicaragua: Das Drama von Managua," GEO December, 1978. 15. "In Short: Fiction," Review of Tar Beachby John Domini, New York Times, December 15, 1991.
16. Namedropping: Mostly Literary Memoirs, "Bashevis" pp. 47-57, "Faye Dunaway," pp. 219-
222, "Little Richard Penniman," pp. 203-204. State University of New York Press, Albany, 1999.
Further Reading Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Volume 3, ed. Adele Sarkissisan, Gale Research Company, Detroit, Michigan,1986.
- Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, pp.69-70
- CAAS, Vol 3., p. p. 73
- Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, p. 79
- The New York Times, Obituaries, January 2, 1998 by Wolfgang Saxon
- Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, and Namedropping: Mostly Literary Memoirs pp. 15-22
- Namedropping, "David Lamson," pp. 38-45
- Namedropping. p. 44
- CAAS, vol. 3, p. 75.
- Namedropping, pp. 16-22
- Namedropping, pp.26-37
- Namedropping, p. 127
- See also, "Poverty, Injustice and the Welfare State," by Richard A. Cloward and Richard Elman, The Nation, February 28 and March 7, 1966, and Saturday Review, "If You Were On Welfare," May 23,1970.
- CAAS volume 3, p. 74.
- "Legacy of Evil, The New York Times Book Review, May 28, 1967.
- Namedropping: Mostly Literary Memoirs, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1999 pp. 47, 219, 203.