Donald Newlove, 93, dies; The novelist explored the depths of the drink


Donald Newlove, a recovered alcoholic who wrote acclaimed and brutally sentimental novels and a memoir with a common theme – drunkenness – as well as cheeky primer on reading and writing, died Aug. 17 in Bethesda, in Maryland. He was 93 years old.

The cause was complications from a hip fracture, said Lisa Brannock, her daughter-in-law and closest survivor.

Mr. Newlove’s novels – including “The Painter Gabriel” (1970), “The Drunks” (1974) and “Sweet Adversity” (1978) – have received critical acclaim. Time magazine described “The Painter Gabriel”, his first, as “one of the best fictional studies on madness, descent and purification that an American has written since” Flight Over a Cuckoo’s Nest “by Ken Kesey.

Novelist Frederick Busch wrote in The New York Times Book Review that “The Drunks” was “a convulsion of ghastly laughter and beautiful writing.” The New Yorker hailed “Sweet Adversity”, about twin Siamese jazz musicians who are alcoholics, as “possibly the clearest and most moving – and certainly one of the most honest – book ever written about alcoholics” . (The novel incorporated material from “The Drunks” and a previous novel, “Leo & Theodore,” published in 1972.)

Equally praised was “Those Drinking Days: Myself and Other Writers”, a 1981 book that is partly memoir, partly discussion of the influence of alcohol on the life of a writer.

Despite all the praise, however, many of Mr. Newlove’s books have fallen out of stock. It is only in recent years that a number of them have been reissued, by Tough Poets Press.

“I was not motivated by the interests of agents or publishers,” he told the literary newspaper. The Collidoscope This year. He admitted that his non-fiction works “were created with an audience in mind,” but added, “I have always written for myself and thought that everything I write in there. period was publishable.

He has written three books on writing, including “First Paragraphs: Inspired Openings for Writers and Readers” (1992), in which he stated that his preferred opening comes in Dickens’ “Bleak House”, with its grim description of a foggy, muddy November day in soot-covered 19th-century London. But he edited in pencil the beginning of Gregory Rabassa’s translation of “Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez.

“I think,” Mr. Newlove wrote of the translation, “the last sentence of this otherwise haunting language of Spanish should read” they found inside a calcified skeleton and around its neck a copper locket containing a woman’s hair. “I doubt the original says” a copper locket with a woman’s hair around the neck. “

Ask by The Collidoscope to compose the opening of a novel that is never finished, he improvised: “Here is your sentence: ‘Who knows what heartbreak the wind will bring?’ “

He had advice for writers in the “opening paragraphs”. “Let me give you Dr. Don’s rule for distinguished writing,” he wrote. “It’s in the voice. You receive a call from a friend, you know right away who it is. A paragraph, you know the voice.

Donald Alford Newlove was born on March 28, 1928 in Erie, Pa. To Samuel and Marvel (Carris) Newlove. His father, a sheet metal worker, died of “tuberculosis, diabetes and alcohol,” his son wrote. Donald grew up in Jamestown, NY, and was raised by his stepfathers.

After failing in ninth grade, he dropped out of school and enlisted in the Marines right after World War II. He then obtained a high school equivalency diploma. When he was recalled for service in Korea, he joined the Air Force instead and edited a base newsletter. He then worked as a reporter for the Jamestown Sun and as an ambulance driver in Florida.

His marriages with Norma Jean Sandberg and Jaqueline Rayfeld ended in divorce. He was married for 39 years to Nancy Semonian, who died in 2017.

At first, publishers weren’t interested in his novels, so much so that Mr. Newlove ran full-page ads in The Village Voice to show them to publishers. He got a break in 1969, when Esquire printed his account of a Christmas dinner he had attended at the home of poet Robert Lowell. He has written dozens of articles for New York Magazine, The Evergreen Review, and The Saturday Review.

Mr. Newlove joined Alcoholics Anonymous at the age of 34, and it took five years to get sober. He concluded that alcohol is rarely an elixir for Writer’s Block.

Recalling Jack Kerouac’s career in “Those Drinking Days”, he wrote: “That greatest writing is made of loneliness and despair amplified by alcohol is an idea for arrested teens”.

He compared his waking up one day from a pipe bender to “having a Zulu spear in my brain and eyes like rugs in which wine has dried.” As an alcoholic, he called his obsessed muse a “Drunkspeare”.

During episodes of drunkenness, he recalls, he was arrested for assaulting his mother (she released him on bail) and was involved in a serious car accident in which he was the driver.

“I wrote richly stupid books as a drinker; they are all in my trunk unpublished “, he declared The Collidoscope. “I don’t subscribe to the idea that drinking improves your writing. However, it is true that some famous writers drank and still managed to write well.

“Can he lend you uninhibited creativity?” He asked, to which he replied, “Some creativity should be inhibited.” “


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