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An American Genius

Patrick Parrinder, 21 November 1991

The Runaway Soul 
by Harold Brodkey.
Cape, 835 pp., £15.99, November 1991, 0 224 03001 9
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... of Myself’, its 800 pages of first-person narrative are formless, plotless and graceless. Harold Brodkey, who began his career in the New Yorker in the Fifties, has been slowly maturing not a well-tempered masterpiece but the garrulous, profligate self-celebrations of a precocious adolescent who never grew up. It is not even clear why the novel ...
Stories in an Almost Classical Mode 
by Harold Brodkey.
Knopf, 596 pp., $24.95, September 1988, 0 394 50699 5
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... Harold Brodkey, whose debut collection of stories, First Love and Other Sorrows, was greeted with well-deserved acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic when it appeared in1958, has produced a hefty new collection: Stories in an Almost Classical Mode. During the intervening thirty years his reputation, bolstered by occasional stories in the New Yorker and other glossy American magazines, has grown formidable ...

On Wings of Song

Frederick Seidel, 8 May 1986

... There is another accent, that goes to Harvard, That anyone who does can have. My babysitter Harold Brodkey will. One day I, too, I will. The servants dip their fingers in The blood and paint themselves, and smear each other’s blouses, With all the time in the world apparently until it’s time. It’s time To pass the chalice and drink. They ...

Insiderish

Colm Tóibín, 26 May 1994

Profane Friendship 
by Harold Brodkey.
Cape, 387 pp., £15.99, April 1994, 0 224 03775 7
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... One of the early chapters in Harold Brodkey’s first novel The Runaway Soul is entitled ‘The River’. The narrator, after his father’s death, returns to a landscape which he had known in early childhood. Some of the prose is plain and clear: ‘At the mouth of the stream, where it emptied into the inlet, under willows, lay a very large, ungainly river dinghy ...

A House Full of No One

Colm Tóibín, 6 February 1997

Heaven’s Coast: A Memoir 
by Mark Doty.
Cape, 305 pp., £16.99, October 1996, 0 224 04390 0
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Atlantis 
by Mark Doty.
Cape, 95 pp., £7, July 1996, 0 224 04400 1
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This Wild Darkness: The Story of My Death 
by Harold Brodkey.
Fourth Estate, 177 pp., £14.99, November 1996, 1 85702 546 6
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PWA: Looking Aids in the Face 
by Oscar Moore.
Picador, 185 pp., £6.99, November 1996, 0 330 35193 1
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... is a black hole, these possibilities remain all the closer to the page for not being entertained. Harold Brodkey died of Aids in January 1996; Oscar Moore died in September 1996. Brodkey wrote about his illness for the New Yorker; Moore for the Guardian. Obviously, when they wrote their articles neither of them knew ...

Super-Striking

Jenny Turner, 24 September 1992

High Cotton 
by Darryl Pinckney.
Faber, 295 pp., £14.99, August 1992, 0 571 16491 9
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... after revision. It is dense and allusive, and pretty massive in scope and ambition. Pinckney, like Harold Brodkey before him, is a contemporary writer who writes, not directly of and to the contemporary world, but with one eye cocked backwards to the golden days of the Modernist novel in English, and the other wandering forward some years hence towards ...

Beautiful People

Jonathan Coe, 23 July 1992

Brightness Falls 
by Jay McInerney.
Bloomsbury, 416 pp., £15.99, May 1992, 0 7475 1152 7
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The Lost Father 
by Mona Simpson.
Faber, 506 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 571 16149 9
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Out with the Stars 
by James Purdy.
Peter Owen, 192 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 0 7206 0861 9
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... persuasive: we watch his best ideas and pet projects being blocked by his once encouraging boss, Harold Stone, and we see him being sweet-talked into the idea over lunch by a charismatic author, Victor Propp (Harold Brodkey-like, he has been writing a massive novel for the last twenty years, with the help of steadily ...

Whamming

Ian Sansom: A novel about work, 2 December 2004

Some Great Thing 
by Colin McAdam.
Cape, 358 pp., £12.99, March 2004, 9780224064552
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... to bodge and skimp: you have to believe that this, after all, will do. If you don’t, you’re Harold Brodkey. If you still believe that writers work hard, go and live with one for a week, and the next time they’re whining about their sad and difficult lives pushing back the frontiers of human knowledge while having another coffee break and trying ...

Mid-Century Male

Christopher Glazek: Edmund White, 19 July 2012

Jack Holmes and His Friend 
by Edmund White.
Bloomsbury, 390 pp., £18.99, January 2012, 978 1 4088 0579 4
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... artists’ – among them Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, John Ashbery, Elizabeth Bishop, Susan Sontag, Harold Brodkey and Robert Wilson – who kept their sexuality hidden from public view, something White views with antipathy: ‘We openly gay artists had to deal with the dismissive or condescending judgments all around us – “Of course since I’m not ...

Nothing in a Really Big Way

James Wood: Adam Mars-Jones, 24 April 2008

Pilcrow 
by Adam Mars-Jones.
Faber, 525 pp., £18.99, April 2008, 978 0 571 21703 8
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... it, how lively most of the book is, and how funny, too. Mars-Jones is challenging us, rather as Harold Brodkey did in his enormous, microscopically narcissistic novel, The Runaway Soul, to keep up with the book’s massive deceleration. Unlike Brodkey, Mars-Jones is witty. So the novel displays an amusing ...

Hoogah-Boogah

James Wolcott: Rick Moody, 19 September 2002

The Black Veil 
by Rick Moody.
Faber, 323 pp., £16.99, August 2002, 0 571 20056 7
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... playing fast and loose with the fingerpointing. It’s the sort of show-offy, loose-logic passage Harold Ross would have shot down by flagging with question marks signifying ‘Huh?’ Why, for example, is there no sheet on that adulterous bed? Isn’t it precisely the memory of one’s spouse that gives adultery its dirty kick? (In a poem called ...

All That Gab

James Wolcott: The Upsides of Sontag’s Downsides, 24 October 2019

Sontag: Her Life 
by Benjamin Moser.
Allen Lane, 832 pp., £30, September 2019, 978 0 241 00348 0
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... thinking of Edmund White’s complaints about ‘blue-chip gays’ like Sontag and Harold Brodkey; with Vidal, he had a whole other slate of indictments). The future may look upon the closet-clingers more benignly, or at least more apathetically, as the labels of sexual identity peel away like old bumper stickers and we evolve into a ...

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