Goran, Lester 1928–
GORAN, Lester 1928–
PERSONAL: Born May 16, 1928; son of Jacob (a tailor) and Tillie (Silverman) Goran; married Edythe McDowell; children: Robert Eliot, William Thomas, John James. Education: University of Pittsburgh, B.A., 1951, M.A., 1960. Politics: Democrat.
ADDRESSES: Home—810 Paradiso, Coral Gables, FL 33146. Office—Department of English, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33124.
CAREER: University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, began in 1960, became professor of English, 1974–; director of undergraduate writing program. Military service: U.S. Corps of Engineers, and Military Police.
AWARDS, HONORS: Research project grant, University of Miami, 1977.
The Paratrooper of Mechanic Avenue (novel), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1960.
Maria Light (novel), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1962.
The Candy Butcher's Farewell (novel), McGraw (New York, NY), 1964.
The Stranger in the Snow (novel), New American Library (New York, NY), 1966.
The Demon in the Sun Parlor (novel), New American Library (New York, NY), 1968.
The Keeper of Secrets (novel), McCall Publishing (New York, NY), 1971.
Mrs. Beautiful, New Horizon Press (Far Hills, NJ), 1985.
(Translator, with Isaac Bashevis Singer) The Image and Other Stories, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1985.
(Translator, with Isaac Bashevis Singer) The Death of Methuselah, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1988.
The Bright Streets of Surfside: The Memoir of a Friendship with Isaac Bashevis Singer, Kent State University Press (Kent, OH), 1994.
Tales from the Irish Club: A Collection of Short Stories, Kent State University Press (Kent, OH), 1996.
She Loved Me Once, and Other Stories, Kent State University Press (Kent, OH), 1997.
Bing Crosby's Last Song, Picador USA (New York, NY), 1998.
Outlaws of the Purple Cow and Other Stories, Kent State University Press (Kent, OH), 1999.
Also author of This New Land, New American Library (New York, NY), 1980, and musical Razzle Dazzle, 1976. Contributor of nonfiction to periodicals.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Once the Sweet Birds Sang, the first novel in the Holtsweg family saga trilogy, for New American Library; The Fall of the Blond Sailor, another book of short stories.
SIDELIGHTS: Lester Goran's fiction vividly re-creates life in Oakland, a working-class neighborhood in the author 's home town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Although the stories Goran writes about Oakland are fiction, their substance is drawn from his life experiences. Figuring prominently in these tales is the Irish Club, a local drinking establishment that also serves as an informal community center and a place where stories are told. The happenings in Oakland "treat such universal themes as the return of the hero from war, the portrait of the artist, the fall from innocence into experience, the painful plight of the marginalized, sexual desperation and celebration, alcoholism, the agony of the inarticulate, and the necessity of fiction as redemption from existential emptiness. Hope and the promise of a better life constitute the major quests throughout many of Goran's stories," summarized Dictionary of Literary Biography essayist Patrick Meanor.
Goran grew up in a public-housing project in Pittsburgh. It was physically very close to the University of Pittsburgh, but it was worlds away culturally. In his life, as in his fiction, the Irish Club was the center of the community. The narratives collected in Tales from the Irish Club: A Collection of Short Stories and the author's other books form a portrait of this community through their linked stories. The people described include Johnny Farley, who finds that his place in life is defined by his stoic acceptance of suffering; Maureen Scanlon, an unmarried school librarian who mistakenly thinks the charming love letters written by a student are coming to her from the school's assistant principal; and high-school art teacher Jack Lanahan, who finally achieves success with his sculptures, but then is not sure he really wants it.
Noting that the stories illuminate "the way in which people's dreams and illusions enable them to transcend the everyday," a Booklist reviewer nevertheless faulted Goran for his "limited" range, claiming that the characters and stories "begin to seem much like one another." The twenty tales in She Loved Me Once, and Other Stories are again seated in the Irish Club. The reviewer for Publishers Weekly termed this collection a "wonderful sequel" to Tales from the Irish Club, finding Goran's prose "funny and poignant." Des Traynor, reviewing She Loved Me Once for World of Hibernia, stated that the stories "provide a pleasant enough if undemanding read," and "capture the flavor of the time well."
In Bing Crosby's Last Song, Goran parlayed his Oakland stories into a novel centered on Daly Racklin, described by Booklist contributor Bill Ott as "the latest in a long line of melancholy tipplers who help us feel the ineffable sadness of most human pursuits." The story begins in 1968, just before the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Racklin, a small-time lawyer, has just learned that his heart is due to give out at any time. The very landscape around him is threatened too, as the University of Pittsburgh has plans to do away with the old neighborhood in favor of campus expansion. "Clearly an extension of Goran's earlier short stories, this is more a nostalgic snapshot of a disappearing way of life than a novel," wrote Library Journal reviewer Susan Gene Clifford. She had praise for the author's "characterization and wry, softly sardonic wit." A Publishers Weekly critic found that "the substance of the book is not the plot but the stories the men swap over their drinks and the intricate relationships within a vibrant community dying before its time—all of it enveloped in an elegiac tenderness." A Publishers Weekly reviewer mused in a review of Outlaws of the Purple Cow and Other Stories, "Goran's solid writing features earthy dialogue and places emphasis on the nuances of social settings and class contexts, bringing much to offer readers with an interest in working-class, Irish-American Catholic culture."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 244: American Short-Story Writers since World War II, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.
Booklist, March 15, 1996, Mary Ellen Quinn, review of Tales from the Irish Club: A Collection of Short Stories, p. 1239; August, 1998, Bill Ott, review of Bing Crosby's Last Song, p. 1963.
Library Journal, August, 1998, Susan Gene Clifford, review of Bing Crosby's Last Song, p. 131.
New Yorker, October 14, 1985, p. 142.
New York Times Book Review, April 21, 1968, p. 54; January 11, 1981, p. 8; David Willis McCullough, review of She Loved Me Once, and Other Stories, p. 36; March 17, 1996, Jay Parini, review of Tales from the Irish Club.
Publishers Weekly, September 1, 1997, review of She Loved Me Once, and Other Stories, p. 93; July 20, 1998, review of Bing Crosby's Last Song, p. 204; August 20, 1999, review of Outlaws of the Purple Cow and Other Stories, p. 53.
Rocky Mountain News, June 16, 1996, Joan Hinkemeyer, review of Tales from the Irish Club, p. 31D.
World of Hibernia, spring, 1998, Des Traynor, review of She Loved Me Once, and Other Stories, p. 156.