Posts tagged Maxwell Bodenheim
Posts tagged Maxwell Bodenheim
A peek at my upcoming book at The Los Angeles Review of Books:
on the return of the thirties.
In the spring of 1935, the famous novelist Maxwell Bodenheim crashed the New York City welfare office and begged for relief after five years of the Great Depression. His career had stalled, and Bodenheim hadn’t earned a dime since his final novels had flopped. He was working on a manuscript called Clear Deep Fusion, but he would never finish it. His visit to the relief office was his last stand before he was edited out of literary history.
The New York Herald Tribune mocked Bodenheim’s ragged demonstration: “he wore high shoes without laces, his shirt was dirty and the rest of his clothes needed cleaning and pressing. He was unshaven, very pale and his hair was mussed.” He brought along five Writers Union activists and a squad of reporters in an effort to inspire other writers to go public with their struggles to survive. One activist waved a sign that read “starvation standards of Home Relief make real ghost writers.” During the thirties, the rate of newspaper closings rose to 48 percent and magazine advertising plunged 30 percent. Publishers Weekly noted book production had been slashed from nearly 211 million to 154 million books during that period: 57 million books evaporated into thin air.
In the mid-1930s, Maxwell Bodenheim served a brief stint on the Federal Writers Project, composing a magnificent essay about Greenwich Village before tumbling into obscurity.
I’ve reprinted the whole essay below, but here’s the opening: “A nation, coming into its own artistically after an era of ruthless industrial expansion, of materialism and strait-laced conventionality, seized upon Greenwich Village as a symbol of revolt in the ferment of postwar years. The ‘Village’ was the center of the American Renaissance or of artiness, of political progress or of long-haired radical men and short-haired radical women, of sex freedom or of sex license dependent upon the point of view.”
You can download a free copy of the New York City Guide to read more and see more etchings from the 1930s.
I loved this essay about Mina Loy, a poet who published alongside Orrick Johns and Maxwell Bodenheim in Greenwich Village. It gives you a glimpse of the bohemian poetry scene before the Great Depression.
Mina Loy (1916)
Recently published work by modernist Mina Loy from Dalky Archive
The Writers Guild of America East joined a solidarity march with the Occupy New York protestors this month, reminding me of one struggling author who turned his poverty into a very public symbol of the plight of writers during the Great Depression.
In March 1935, Maxwell Bodenheim crashed the New York City welfare office to beg for relief, making national headlines for writers in the process.
O tangled and half-strangled child, you shrink
For ever from yourself, and wear a pose
Of nimble and impenetrable pride.
Yet sometimes, wavering on the sudden brink
Of jaded bitterness, you drop your clothes
And weave a prayer into your naked stride.