Gerald Jay Goldberg



Read my blog BACK TALK


I was born in the Bronx, attended the Bronx High School of Science. At Purdue University, I was a member of the wrestling team and the Purdue Players. I graduated as an English major in love with Faulkner and Nathanael West. My master’s degree was from NYU (M.A. 1953), my doctorate from the University of Minnesota (Ph.D. 1958). As a graduate student, I edited Faulkner Studies and co-founded the magazine Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction. My doctoral dissertation was entitled “The Artist as Hero in Modern British Fiction, 1890-1930.” Dartmouth read it and invited me to join their English Department.

In 1962, I published NOTES FROM THE DIASPORA (a limited edition of my short stories with original pen-and-ink drawings by my wife Nancy Marmer), a collection of critical essays entitled THE MODERN CRITICAL SPECTRUM, and Harper’s Bazaar accepted for publication my short story “Fibelman in the Diaspora.” That same year I received a Fulbright Professorship to Spain where I taught at the University of Zaragoza. When my family and I arrived there in October (see “The Loving Tongue,” Harper’s Bazaar, February 1966), Russian missiles had just been discovered in Cuba and the U.S. SAC base outside Zaragoza suddenly filled with nuclear bombs and B-52s lined up wing-tip to wing-tip as far as the eye could see. One of those nukes would eventually play a role in my first novel.

I’ve published five works of fiction, four of non-fiction--almost all of them while teaching at UCLA. My first novel, THE NATIONAL STANDARD, was a satire born of the 60s, Vietnam, and the spirit of protest alive in the land. Interviewed by Publishers Weekly (“First Novelists,” 1968), I said, “For a writer today it’s hard to decide which is more urgent--a sense of humor or a sense of outrage. I try to keep both and cope.” One reviewer of the novel wrote, “Call it a masterpiece of fun and satire, but read it.”

THE LYNCHING OF ORIN NEWFIELD, my second novel, had its genesis in a phone call I received in November 1958 from a friend, the painter Lewis Teague, who lived in the small town of Norwich, Vermont. It was an invitation to a murder trial for the killing of a Newbury farmer, Orville Gibson. After one riveting day in court, I was hooked on the case. Several years later in Los Angeles, I began to write my novel of a communal murder that occurred in a small farming town in Vermont. Somehow in the process--the magical way things happen for fiction writers--Newbury became Norwich became my Farnum, Vermont, and Lewis Teague’s old rambling farmhouse at the end of a dirt road outside town became Orin Newfield’s. THE LYNCHING OF ORIN NEWFIELD was singled out for praise in Life Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, and the Los Angeles Times. The New Yorker called The Lynching of Orin Newfield a “remarkable novel.”

Time magazine summed up my second collection of stories, 126 DAYS OF CONTINUOUS SUNSHINE as “Skewed Wonders.” Even the darkest of these eleven tales is darkness visible, while the light in the stories set in Southern California shines with a blinding intensity. Robert Kirsch, writing in the Los Angeles Times notes, “In this strange and feverish new Holy Land, Goldberg has discovered the perfect ground” for his vision.
HEART PAYMENTS , my own fictional portrait of the artist, was published in 1982. The artist here is Dan Asher, a maker of collages like Joseph Cornell, first-rate but out of luck. The setting is the LA art scene of the late 1960s. The plot centers on the theft of a Rembrandt from the Los Angeles County Museum. Enter Henry Tattersall, an old-time private eye and Asher himself becomes a suspect. In a way, the two men are kindred souls, both searching for some pattern in the web. Think of the novel itself as a collage and the result is a portrait of the artist whose battered heart is its focal point. In a starred review, the West Coast Review of Books called my collage-novel “an exquisite work in which each bit, each piece, each person, springs to life and is unforgettable.”

* * *

THE MODERN CRITICAL SPECTRUM and THE FATE OF INNOCENCE were both published in the 1960s. The former, co-edited by Nancy Marmer, was part of Prentice-Hall’s English Literature series directed by Maynard Mack of Yale. It represents the dominant twentieth-century critical approaches to literary works as demonstrated in essays by some of the major critics of the age. Dr. Munroe Beattie, of Canada’s Carleton University, called the collection “matchless.” THE FATE OF INNOCENCE was a one-off in a projected series of “seminar books” containing diverse works of drama, poetry, and fiction from different historical periods with a shared literary theme. The idea for it came from a Freshman seminar I taught at Dartmouth.

ANCHORS: BROKAW, JENNINGS, RATHER AND THE EVENING NEWS appeared in 1990. I wrote it with my son Robert who at the time was the TV critic for The Wall Street Journal. Our goal was to profile the three men who then occupied the anchor desks at the major networks and, while trying to convey some of the drama that goes on behind the scenes, present how the networks went about covering the nightly news. ANCHORS, a Finalist for the “1990 Electronic Book of the Year” award, is set in 1989--one of the most astonishing years for world news in recent memory.

Although there have been a number of biographies of Time magazine’s 1991 Man of the Year, CITIZEN TURNER: THE WILD RISE OF AN AMERICAN TYCOON is by critical consensus the best. Our account of Ted Turner relies on hundreds of interviews and emphasizes the human side of the media dynamo. It has been described as thorough, even-handed, “more up-close and personal,” and the “most complete of the Turner biographies.” It has been called “a dynamic book on all counts” by Publishers Weekly and “biography at its best” by the Chicago Tribune.

I’ve lectured and read from my works widely both here and abroad. In addition to the Fulbright, I’ve received fellowships from the University of California’s Institute of Creative Arts and a Regents Faculty Fellowship in the Creative Arts. I’ve taught at Dartmouth and UCLA, and been a Visiting Professor at the University of Zaragoza, Williams College, and Queens College/the City University of New York.

The book reviews I’ve written have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Nation, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post Book World, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Art in America, The Boston Review, and the International Herald Tribune.

About the Author Books Interviews Links Home