University of Minnesota
Department of English

Department of English

Five X Friday

Past Alumni News Stories
Angela Smith (PhD), professor
Jerr Boschee (BA), social entrepreneur
Reina del Cid (BA), bandleader
Arthur Schuhart (BA), CC professor
Amanda Coplin (MFA), novelist
David Wojahn (BA), poet
Sarah Wadsworth (PhD), professor
Mark Baumgarten (BA), writer/editor
Andrew Nath (BA), banker
Esther Porter (BA), editor
Gerald Jay Goldberg (PhD), writer
Peter Geye (BA), novelist
Sam Kean (BA), nonfiction writer
Joyce Sutphen (BA, MA, PhD), poet
Susan Taylor (MFA), CC professor
Sheila O'Connor (BA), novelist
Susan Niz (BA), novelist
Scott Burns (BA), screenwriter/director
Swati Avasthi (MFA), novelist
Marilyn Nelson (PhD), poet
Garrison Keillor (BA), radio host
Carol Mason (PhD), professor
Amy Shearn (MFA), novelist
Virginia McDavid (BA, MA, PhD), prof
Tim Nolan (BA), poet
Kevin Reilly (PhD), administrator

Michael Tisserand (BA), writer

From the Bronx to Montmartre

PhD alumnus Garald Jay Goldberg unpacks a storied career of storytelling

Gerald Jay Goldberg
Gerald Jay Goldberg (PhD 1958) has published books over six decades. His novel The Lynching of Orin Newfield (Dial Press) was a 1970 New York Times notable book of the year, receiving rave reviews from The New Yorker to The Los Angeles Times. In the Nineties, Goldberg and his son Robert wrote two popular books about the media, Anchors: Brokaw, Jennings, Rather and the Evening News and Citizen Turner: The Wild Rise of an American Tycoon. This past July, after a relatively long (for him) quiet period, Goldberg published his first suspense/adventure novel, The Paris Directive (Nan A. Talese/ Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group), under the name Gerald Jay. The Bronx native lives in New York, with his wife Nancy (an MA alumna), who was for many years managing editor of the magazine Art in America.

1. When did you study English at Minnesota?

My wife, Nancy Marmer, and I—newly wed in January, 1954—arrived in Minneapolis that fall. Nancy had just received her BA from Queens College and I my MA from NYU. We were accompanied by a gorgeous sapphire-blue-eyed Siamese cat named Caddy in honor of William Faulkner, the subject of my master’s thesis. Nancy was assigned to be Professor Leonard Unger’s TA, and I taught in the General College.

2. Those were the days of Berryman and Penn Warren. Any interactions with the famous?

T.S. Eliot had come to Minneapolis to deliver the Gideon Seymour Memorial Lecture in 1956, and the local media had whipped up a small frenzy about the Nobel Prize winner’s arrival. Naturally faculty members and graduate students in English were in attendance. But so too were hardware salesman, used car dealers, dairy farmers, school custodians, and veterans of foreign wars. Folks in school busses streamed in from as far away as Iowa, South Dakota. Who knows what they were expecting? Standing behind the improvised stage at the Williams Arena, Allen Tate introduced us to Mr. Eliot. Tate seemed a bit edgy, eyeing the crowd as they poured into the large sports facility. In his opening remarks, Tate began by saying that he’d never before seen so many people looking in his direction. Eliot was greeted with wild applause. But no sooner did he begin his lecture, "The Frontiers of Criticism," than members of the audience began to head for the exits. For those of us who stayed in that cavernous space until the end of a lecture (which Marianne Moore called “a very pleasing unpontifical discussion”) it was hard not to feel sorry for Mr. Eliot.

3. What professors or classes do you particularly remember?

The Minnesota English Department in the 1950s was a hotbed of New Criticism, and we were both swept up in the formalist movement. At the end of our first year, Nancy was awarded the Department’s 1955 Fellowship Association of University of Minnesota Prize for excellence. Professor Unger’s courses in seventeenth-century English literature were memorable, and his readings of Metaphysical poetry could on occasion be thrilling. Among the many outstanding professors that I had were John Clark, G. Robert Stange, and William Van O’Connor.

4. What’s this about starting a journal here?

O’Connor, who would eventually become my dissertation adviser (“The Artist-Hero in Modern British Fiction, 1890-1930”), knew that I’d done work on Faulkner and invited us to join the editorial staff of the journal Faulkner Studies, which he supervised. Eventually we decided to enlarge the scope of the magazine as well as its format. Volume I, no. 1 of Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction appeared in the winter of 1956. It had taken me about a year to put together the necessary funds. I vividly recall trudging through hip-deep snow from General Mills to Betty Crocker with my hand out pleading with the giants of American industry to support literary criticism. Alas … not even a cookie!

Finally with crucial support from a private local foundation and the University of Minnesota, as well as important help from Allen Tate in obtaining essays on the work of Caroline Gordon, our first issue was born. We left the magazine in 1958 when I went to teach at Dartmouth. Critique would continue to be published quarterly in Minneapolis for 14 years before moving on to Atlanta and elsewhere. Now called Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, it has been published for 56 years, a remarkable achievement for any magazine—let alone a literary quarterly.

5. After you moved to California to join the faculty at UCLA (1964-91), you published one collection of short stories and three novels, all between 1968 and 1982. Then you took a break from publishing fiction for 30 years. What happened? And what started you up again?

I worked on short stories, which I’ve always enjoyed. But my major undertaking was a book entitled Dancing by Starlite, my novel about the vaudeville life in America and one of its young eccentric dancers. I keep coming back to this project, and one day perhaps I’ll get it just the way I want it. The Paris Directive—published by Nan A.Talese/Doubleday this year—was a novelty for me, since I’d never before tried my hand at a literary thriller. I enjoyed writing it, and Nan Talese has liked it well enough to ask me for a sequel, which I’ll again write under my thriller nom de plume, Gerald Jay. It will, of course, feature my Inspector Paul Mazarelle. This one will take place in the French capital, and I’m looking forward to my research in Paris.

Send us your story! Share your announcements, awards, and news.

For other 5 X Friday interviews, go to our home page.



Facebook iconDepartment of English on Facebook