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Harold Brodkey Biography

(1930–96), The Runaway Soul, The New Yorker, Esquire, First Love and Other Sorrows

American novelist and short-story writer, born in Alton, Illinois, educated at Harvard. He was Associate Professor of English at Cornell University and also taught at the City University of New York. Until the publication of his novel The Runaway Soul (1991), Brodkey's reputation was based mainly on a handful of short stories, most of them published in The New Yorker and Esquire. His first collection, First Love and Other Sorrows (1957), was greeted with almost universal acclaim. His reputation was then sustained by the promise of a novel, initially entitled A Party of Animals; for years, despite constant announcements of its imminent publication, the novel failed to appear and Brodkey became the subject of intense speculation. The Runaway Soul (1991) is a remarkable novel, whose evocation of the world of childhood and adolescence belongs to a mainstream American tradition. The exhaustive detail and exuberant linguistic playfulness is reminiscent of both Walt Whitman and Jack Kerouac; like them, he tried to find a new language to convey the intelligence of the body and of the world of dreaming which accompanies it. Profane Friendship (1994), a study of sexual obsession and inversion, was written in a plainer style, though not as plain as his dignified and harrowing memoir ‘My Life, My Wife and Aids’ (1994); Broadkey died of an AIDS-related illness. His other publications include two volumes of short stories, Women and Angels (1985) and Stories in an Almost Classical Mode (1988; UK title, The Abundant Dreamer, 1989); and A Poem about Testimony and Argument (1986).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Bridgnorth Shropshire to Anthony Burgess [John Anthony Burgess Wilson Burgess] Biography