Ginsberg, Louis 1895-1976
GINSBERG, Louis 1895-1976
PERSONAL: Born October 1, 1895, in Newark, NJ; died July 8, 1976; son of Peter G. (a cigar store owner) and Rebecca (Schectman) Ginsberg; married Naomi Levy, December 18, 1920 (deceased); married Edith Cohen (an office manager), March 26, 1950; children: (first marriage) Eugene, Allen. Education: Rutgers University, B.A., 1918; Columbia University, M.A., 1924.
CAREER: Central High School, Paterson, NJ, English teacher, 1921-61; Rutgers University College, Peterson Center, NJ, English instructor, beginning 1950. Former vice-president of Paterson Library Board.
MEMBER: Poetry Society of America (formerly on executive board).
The Attic of the Past, Small, Maynard (Boston, MA), 1920.
The Everlasting Minute, Liveright, 1937.
Morning in Spring and Other Poems, Morrow (New York, NY), 1970.
Family Business: Selected Letters between a Father and Son, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2001.
Contributor to more than ninety anthologies, including Modern American Poetry, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1919, revised edition, 1962, and Thomas Moult's Best Poems. Contributor to Atlantic Monthly, American Scholar, Saturday Review, Poetry, New Statesman, Times Literary Supplement, and New Yorker.
SIDELIGHTS: Louis Ginsberg was a respected lyric poet in his own right, but he is undoubtedly best known as the father of renowned Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Allen was the child of Louis's first marriage, to Naomi Ginsberg, an ardent Communist who eventually died in a mental institution. They were divorced before her death, and Louis had a second, happier, marriage. His son Allen began writing regularly to him in 1944, while he was a young student at Columbia University, and their correspondence continued until the elder Ginsberg's death in July of 1976.
Their letters, collected in Family Business: Selected Letters between a Father and Son, reveal two lively minds with very different sensibilities, and a father and son who loved one another deeply. It is "some of the most astonishing correspondence in American literature," concluded a Publishers Weekly writer, in part because of the amazing times these men lived through. They argued about politics, the Vietnam war, morality, and poetry, yet "despite bombarding one another with furious rants and mountains of newspaper clippings, . . . the two somehow avoided a serious breach; even the angriest missives tend to end affectionately," noted Christopher Tayler in Sunday Telegraph. "Many of the letters are also very funny, . . . mostly because of the contrast between Louis's love of moderation and Allen's relentlessly way-out persona." Library Journal critic William Gargan found the letters marked by "a mutual respect, a strong desire for reconciliation, and pride in each other's poetic accomplishments." Concluded the Publishers Weekly critic: "Anyone interested in either Ginsberg, the beats, American poetry or the '60s should not miss this ferociously tender and comical collection."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
AB Bookman's Weekly, November 3, 1986, p. 1766.
American Book Collector, March, 1976, p. 29.
American Book Review, April, 1994, review of Collected Poems, p. 30.
Choice, March, 2002, W. Britton, review of Family Business: Selected Letters between a Father and Son, p. 1237.
Daily Telegraph, January 19, 2002, Alan Marshall, review of Family Business: Selected Letters between a Father and Son.
Library Journal, September 1, 2001, William Gargan, review of Family Business: Selected Letters between a Father and Son, p. 178.
New York Times Book Review, September 30, 2001, Henry Taylor, review of Family Business: Selected Letters between a Father and Son, p. 26.
Publishers Weekly, August 6, 2001, review of Family Business: Selected Letters between a Father and Son, p. 73.
Sunday Telegraph, January 20, 2002, Christopher Tayler, review of Family Business: Selected Letters between a Father and Son.
Sunday Times (London, England), January 27, 2002, p. 42.
Times Literary Supplement, November 30, 2001, James Campbell, review of Family Business: Selected Letters between a Father and Son, p. 28.*