Brownstein, Michael 1943-
BROWNSTEIN, Michael 1943-
ADDRESSES: Home and office—21 East 2nd St., No. 3, New York, NY 10003.
CAREER: Poet and novelist; freelance writer. University of Colorado and Naropa Institute, both Boulder, CO, instructor in creative writing, 1976-77; Columbia University, New York, NY, instructor in creative writing, 1986-87.
AWARDS, HONORS: Poets' Foundation grant, 1966; Fulbright fellowship, Paris, France, 1967-68; Frank O'Hara Award, 1969, for Highway to the Sky; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1979, 1987.
Behind the Wheel, "C" Press (New York, NY), 1967.
Highway to the Sky, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1969.
Three American Tantrums, Angel Hair (New York, NY), 1970.
30 Pictures, Grape Press (Stinson Beach, CA), 1972.
Strange Days Ahead, Z Press (Calais, VT), 1975.
When Nobody's Looking, Rocky Ledge Cottage (Boulder, CO), 1981.
Oracle Night: A Love Poem, Sun & Moon Press (College Park, MD), 1982.
World on Fire, Open City Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Brainstorms (short stories), Bobbs-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN), 1971.
Country Cousins (novel), George Braziller (New York, NY), 1974.
Music from the Evening of the World (short stories), Sun & Moon Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1989.
The Touch (novel), Autonomedia (Brooklyn, NY), 1993.
Self-Reliance: A Novel, Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1994.
Also editor of The Dice Cup: Selected Prose Poems of Max Jacob, Sun (New York, NY), 1980. Contributor to journals and magazines, including New Yorker, Paris Review, Rolling Stone, Partisan Review, Chelsea Review, Angel Hair, Poetry, Harris Review, and Un Poco Loco.
SIDELIGHTS: Poet and author of novels and short fiction Michael Brownstein has written about his culture and times, from the late 1960s' flower revolution through the mid-1970s, when the New York School of Poets formed at St. Mark's Church in New York City, to the turn of the twenty-first century—a time of globalization, the information age, and the war on terror.
In 1969 he won the Frank O'Hara Award for his first full collection of poetry, Highway to the Sky. Brownstein was associated with the poet Anne Waldman, director of the poetry project at St. Mark's, and in 1976 moved to Boulder, Colorado, where he taught writing at the University of Colorado and the Naropa Institute. His collection Strange Days Ahead grew out of this period. Influenced by the Beat poets, it "reads like deconstructed ruins of hectic celebration," Andre commented. Brownstein's style is prosy and somewhat deadpan in this collection. In his 1982 prose poem, Oracle Night, Brownstein adheres to a single love theme throughout, with one-page stanzas.
Brownstein turned to short stories as early as 1971, with Brainstorms, followed in 1974 by the novel Country Cousins. His 1993 novel The Touch deals with contemporary subjects: New Age characters search for enlightenment and rediscovery of sexuality in the shadow of the AIDS epidemic.
In his 1994 work Self-Reliance: A Novel, Brownstein returns to the Manhattan of the mid-1970s. His main character is Roy, a marijuana-smoking freelance journalist who navigates the New York City culture at a time of junkies on the Lower East Side, the psychotic serial killer Son of Sam, the gay revolution, and unruly street people. Desperate to earn enough to take his girlfriend on a vacation, Roy gets an interview with an elderly and reclusive novelist, only to find his apartment broken into and his tapes stolen when he tries to sell the story. Giving up on writing and turning to performance art, Roy falls into a paranoid state in which he believes the elderly novelist is controlling his world. Donna Seaman of Booklist found that Brownstein leaves the reader "more than willing to suspend disbelief and soak up this wily and brilliantly created ambience." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the author "skillfully re-creates the 1970s setting."
Brownstein's 2002 epic treatise/poem World on Fire examines the world at the turn of the twenty-first century. Amid the destruction of rain forests, a globalized society that obliterates cultural diversity, terrorism, breakthroughs in genetic engineering, the drive to produce and consume more fossil fuels, and the dehumanizing effects of mass media, the poet calls on mankind to return to a simpler, more ecologically sustainable lifestyle. Reminiscent of the Beat poets in rhetoric, the book, according to a Publishers Weekly contributor, is "one of the most eloquent recent poetic works to cover the downsides of 'progress' and to cry out for a counterpunch against the manipulations of empire."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Book Review, September, 1982, review of Oracle Night: A Love Poem, p. 4.
Booklist, March 1, 1989, review of Music from the Evening of the World, p. 1091; March 15, 1994, Donna Seaman, review of Self-Reliance: A Novel, p. 1326
Book World, October 1, 1989, review of Music from the Evening of the World, p. 10.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1989, review of Music from the Evening of the World, p. 142.
Library Journal, Harold Augenbraum, April 1, 1994, review of Self-Reliance, p. 130.
New York Times Book Review, March 8, 1987, review of Country Cousins, p. 34; May 22, 1994, Catherine Texier, review of Self-Reliance, p. 9
Publishers Weekly, February 3, 1989, review of Music from the Evening of the World, p. 93; March 7, 1994, review of Self-Reliance, p. 66; April 29, 2002, review of World on Fire, p. 66.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, spring, 1990, review of Music from the Evening of the World, p. 306.
Village Voice, June 20, 1989, review of Music from the Evening of the World, p. 63.*