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May 13: Myron Brinig’s 21 Novels

May 12, 2015

512HVQlyb4L._AA160_The first American Jewish novelist to write about gay life with any depth (and one of the first of his generation to write in English instead of Yiddish), Myron Brinig died at 95 on this date in 1991. Brinig grew up with shopkeeper parents in Butte, Montana, where his early books are set. As a youngster, Brinig “sold candy in brothels and newspapers in bars,” writes Earl Ganz at the GLBTQ Encyclopedia. “He saw first-hand Butte’s horrific labor problems, particularly its long strikes and the mayhem the Anaconda Copper Company committed in breaking those strikes.” At 17 he moved to New York to study at NYU. From 1929 to 1935, Farrar & Rinehart published one Brining novel per year; his total output, ending in 1958, was twenty-one novels, including a best-seller, The Sisters (1937), which was made into a film by Anatole Litvak and starring Bette Davis and Errol Flynn. Brinig was closeted throughout his life, but spent the last third of it living with a man he loved, writes Ganz, with many friends and “frequent[ing] a First Avenue bar, appropriately called The Closet, where he could be himself.”

“Why did the literary critics... ignore him? This neglect is particularly glaring among the Jewish critics, Irving Howe, Leslie Fiedler, and Alfred Kazin. Singermann [his first novel] is only the third Jewish immigrant novel written in English rather than Yiddish. That fact alone should have earned him notice and critical consideration... The decisions to ignore Brinig were conscious. These critics understood that Brinig was a homosexual and that several of his characters, while not designated as such, were homosexuals. Rather than deal with these facts they chose to ignore Brinig and his work, perhaps out of embarrassment or homophobia.” —Earl Ganz