Wednesday, November 22, 2023

SSW: "The Dead Women" by Marguerite Young, AMERICAN PREFACES, V.8 #3, 1943 issue, edited by Louise Garrigus/Jean Garrigue and Paul Engle; "The Day They Got Boston" by Herbert Gold, METRONOME, January 1961, edited by Bill Coss: Short Story Wednesday

stories by Herbert Gold (March 9, 1924-November 19, 2023) and Marguerite Young (August 26, 1908-November 17, 1995)

One of Wilbur Schramm's last issues before going into military service athe end of 1942. A modest little magazine and rather obscure today, apparently initially 16pp per issue, and founded by Schramm in 1935 at the University of Iowa, along with his founding and serving as firschair of the Iowa Writer's Workshop in 1936. Louise Garrigus (later more famous as poet and academic Jean Garrigue), apparently a former student of Young's at Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, and later, briefly roommates, edited, with Paul Engle, what final, 1943 issues were published, including Volume 8, Number 3, which featured Young's story..."The Dead Women" is only one of three short stories (0ne previously unpublished) the Dalkey Archive chose to include in their 1994 retrospective collection of her prose, Inviting the Muses, which they wanted to offer alongside their reprint of her famously large 1965 novel Miss Mackintosh, My Darling, and apparently either the only ones she had chosen to keep or the only three she had written or finished--most of her early publications had been poetry (which Sublunary Press has reprinted), and the Muses volume is mostly made up of her short essays and book reviews (she also has at least two notable book-length nonfiction works, one on utopian community experiments in the U.S., and one on Eugene V. Debs, the union and US Socialist Party cofounder, and a presidential candidate who ran in his last campaign from prison, as the wildly overrated Woodrow Wilson couldn't tolerate critique of WWI).

There are some similarities among the three stories, the previously unpublished one which leads off, "My Grandmother's Foot" deals in part with importunate men, disability, and at least one woman with unbreakable spirit; "Old James" (from the Kenyon Review) touches on similar matters. But "The Dead Women" is a brief story about a mortuary cosmetologist, as she goes about her work on various cadavers, including one old man but mostly women, trying to suss out how they best would've liked to be presented for the last time, while being interrupted by her father and her father-in-law, importunate old men (and one with a damaged foot), and thinking about how she has been coping and will cope with her pregnancy, as the various tasks we read about occur at various stages of her gestation; happily, her husband is utterly supportive, if mostly "off-stage" in the narrative, but she has nothing but good memories of her man, while doing her best not to be too distracted by the older gen and their chatter and attempts at charming bluster. It's a solid story, makes its points reasonably subtly, and reflects some of Young's early experience in the rural Midwest. 

The Paris Review and The New Yorker on Young and Miss Mackintosh, My Darling.

Not the correct issue of Metronome, either! See below.
Meanwhile, Herbert Gold, who died the other day at age 99, was once one of the most prolific and prominently-published young writers in the U. S., and kept up a rather consistent career well into his later life...not least known for his satiric view of lust and love, and for similar drives in our lives and those of others like or somewhat unlike us (the first novel I read of his was Salt, about  aggressive businessmen and how they work and live)...par
ticularly as he would write some fantastica throughout his career. "The Day They Got Boston" is a densely mocking account of how the Soviet Union manages to accidentally nuke the Hub and some of its environs one day in the world as it existed in 1961, and what the metaphorical as well as actual fallout might be--mutations from exposure to radioactivity particularly noted at Seven Sisters colleges, the bargaining for which Soviet city will be destroyed in penance for Boston/Cambridge, how De Gaulle demands France be allowed in on the Fun. (This was written and published before the novel [or film] Fail-Safe, though after the straitlaced initial inspiration for Dr. Strangelove, Red Alert, was published.) It perhaps betrays 1961 a bit in that it doesn't seem to occur to Gold that Seven Sisters women might not need exposure to radiation to find sexual and romantic comfort in each other...

This story was actually published not in the issue of jazz magazine Metronome pictured above, but like the American Prefaces issue pictured above, its a poachable image of an issue of the venerable music magazine, devoted mostly to jazz for some decades by 1961, within some months of it, too, folding, at the end of '61...even as the magazine was branching out into interesting, even avant-garde fiction as well as music coverage...the January issue (which can be read in its entirety at that link, though I haven't yet fiddled with it enough to copy the cover image), with the Gold story, also includes an early English translation of Alfred Jarry, and Jack Gelber's court-driven crime story, "The King of Shades"...along with such more usual Metronome content as Nat Hentoff's assessment of the Third Stream (the confluence of jazz and classical music, ranging from George Russell, and Max Roach and Jimmy Giuffre in some projects, Teo Macero and the Brubeck Quartet and the Modern Jazz Quartet, to Gunther Schuller and David Amram, to Ellington and Gershwin and other earlier explorers), and a featured item by a young jazz journalist, Ted White (not yet assisting at The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, much less editing Fantastic and Amazing), a profile/albums-review piece about Charles Mingus's work (speaking of those who would enrich the Third Stream) that particularly pleased Mingus for Getting what he was doing, and which I take to be White's proudest achievement in his early jazz journalism.

Sadly, even the distributor label on the cover of the January Metronome, Acme, boded ill...Acme, ironically, was a bottom of the market magazine distributor, and even though they would distribute the no-budget Robert Lowndes-edited Magazine of Horror and other worthy titles in the years to come, were not a sign of robust commercial prospects for any magazine.

A somewhat healthier commercial property, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, decided to pick up the Gold story for reprint in their September 1961 issue (which can be read at the link), as edited by Robert P. Mills (the most famous story published during the Mills editorship might well still be the most famous the magazine has ever published, the short form of "Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes--though Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" and Stephen King's first version [and terrible juvenilia as first published] of "The Gunslinger" are among the challengers there). The F&SF reprint is lacking the couple of illustrations in the jazz magazine (one of which doesn't reproduce well at all online, alas, at least apparently), but the filler that follows "Boston" is its own kind of curiosa, being one of the "Ferdinand Feghoot" pun anecdotes that Reginald Bretnor would write for the magazine, signing himself as "Grendel Briarton", and in this case crediting "Herman W. Mudgett" with inspiration for the pun which ends it..."Mudgett" being one of the names of the Chicago Exposition Devil in the White City murderer and a pseudonym that "Tony Boucher"/William White would use, in his capacity as F&SF editor before Mills, to sign short light verse used as fillers in his issues.  The joke is premised upon a 1967 crisis at Fort Knox that is solved mostly by still-president John F. Kennedy, Sr., "still alert and decisive"...which takes on a special poignance, particularly for his admirers, considering this is the 60th anniversary of JFK's assassination (and the wounding of John Connally) as I write this...

For more of today's Short Stories, please see Patti Abbott's blog.


  1. A pleasingly eclectic post, Todd. Thanks for the read! Young's novel was widely heralded on release but wound up as landfill, judging by the piles I saw in in the ramainder outlets back in the day. It's interesting that Metronome went out of business just as it started expanding its content, whereeas Downbeat stuck to its roots and is still around. We need a good history of Metronome, for sure.

  2. Thanks! At least one writer and critic of considerable distinction has mentioned to me how deadening the experience of the novel was, for him as far as he got with it, and this was not a unique reaction, as the PARIS REVIEW and NEW YORKER essays note in some detail. I hope, as I get to them, that the somewhat less elephantine nonfiction volumes might be better reads for me.

    METRONOME does seem to cry out for a book, doesn't it? I think that DOWNBEAT might've always had more instrument-advertising going for it...and they did gingerly take on rock along with blues and other non-jazz over the decades...JAZZ TIMES and DB are the only jazz magazines I see even spottily on the B&N racks these days, and I haven't checked on CADENCE for a while (always more subscription-based, with half any given issue the current catalog of their distributed recordings), nor the UK magazines.

  3. I remember reading one or perhaps more of Gold's novel but haven't thought of him in years. I remember that having more heft than many novels of the era.

  4. He enjoyed playing hipster games at times (as in the jape under discussion above), but as several have noted over the years, his sense of people was considerably less knee-jerk than that of what could be termed his fellow bohemians, his default worldview less smug than some of the more Ivy-darling crowd, and he did have a keen eye for how we dig holes for ourselves.

  5. "The Dead Women" about a mortuary cosmetologist seems like it would be a good read.

    That is a very nice cover for that issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I will go read the story by Herbert Gold tomorrow.

  6. In re the Young, I'd say so...I wonder what she made of it, never seeking to have her slim output of short fiction collected.

    Edmund Emshwiller, who painted the cover of that issue of F&SF, was a genius in at least three related directions: illustration, film-making, and electronic animation. You'll find a lot about him, and his similarly brilliant wife, the writer (and frequent model for his female characters) Carol Emshwiller, on this blog, and likely more to come. Gold's story remains funny and too timely.


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