Jacobs, Harvey 1930-
JACOBS, Harvey 1930-
PERSONAL: Born January 7, 1930, in New York, NY; son of Louis (a dentist) and Laura Jacobs; married Estelle Rose (an artist), October 18, 1956; children: Adam. Education: Syracuse University, B.A., 1950; Columbia University, graduate study, 1950-51.
CAREER: Weizman Institute of Science, New York, NY, public relations, 1954-55; worked for Village Voice, New York, NY, and published East (newspaper), 1956-57; American Broadcasting Co., New York, NY, director of industry affairs, 1958-73. Syracuse University Writers' Workshop, instructor, 1958-59.
MEMBER: Writers Guild of America, PEN, Dramatists Guild.
AWARDS, HONORS: Playboy Fiction Award for story, "The Lion's Share"; Earplay Award for Drama from Writers Guild of America.
The Egg of the Glak (short stories), Harper (New York, NY), 1969.
(With David Martin) Famous Fingerprints (cartoons), Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1969.
(With David Martin) Mrs. Portnoy's Retort: A Mother Strikes Back! (cartoons), Allograph Publishers (New York, NY), 1969.
Summer on a Mountain of Spices (novel), Harper (New York, NY), 1976.
The Juror: A Novel, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1980.
Beautiful Soup: A Novel for the Twenty-first Century, Celadon Press (New York, NY), 1993.
American Goliath: Inspired by the True, Incredible Events surrounding the Mysterious Marvel Known to the Astonished World As the Cardiff Giant, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Also author of scripts of specials for ABC-TV, NBCTV, and Children's Television Workshop. Contributor of short stories to Transatlantic Review, Esquire, Playboy, Mademoiselle, Cosmopolitan, New Worlds, Realist, Midstream, Paris Review, and other periodicals.
Syracuse University Library houses a collection of Jacobs's manuscripts.
SIDELIGHTS: Harvey Jacobs writes imaginative, lively novels and stories with unusual characters in unusual situations. An essayist for the St. James Guide to Science-Fiction Writers noted that Jacobs's "stories use a satiric, even whimsical tone to examine what it means to be human, how we treat our selves and one another, and the often absurd rules we set up to govern our own behavior. Most of Jacobs's fiction is skillfully written and sufficiently oddball that it appears as frequently in slick mainstream magazines as in purely science fiction publications, and his bizarre vision of the modern world has been compared to Magic Realism, fantasy, and surrealist fiction."
Beautiful Soup: A Novel for the Twenty-first Century is set in a future where people are required to wear bar codes on their foreheads. The bar codes tell each person's identity and social status. The novel focuses on the dilemma of Jim Wander, a man whose privileged status is stripped as the result of a supermarket accident that changes his bar code and leaves him with the identity of a can of pea soup. A series of bizarre characters and adventures ensue. "Despite the relentlessly absurd plot," the St. James Guide to Science-Fiction Writers essayist explained, "the novel is a caustic indictment of the pressure for conformity and our willingness to relinquish control of our own lives." In the Los Angeles Times Book Review, James Sallis described Beautiful Soup as "a wonderful and wonderfully funny book. The fun house is open late tonight."
The main character of American Goliath: Inspired by the True, Incredible Events surrounding the Mysterious Marvel known to the Astonished World As the Cardiff Giant is George Hull, who is inspired to mischief by a preacher's claim that there were giants in America at the time described in the biblical Book of Genesis. Hull takes advantage of the fact that there is an archaeological dig nearby, and has sculptors create bogus fossils of giants. The "find" creates waves that are so big, even P. T. Barnum is envious. The story is further animated by the appearance of such figures as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and John D. Rockefeller. Jacobs's novel is based on the actual events surrounding the Cardiff Giant Hoax of 1869. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that "this quaint tapestry is further enlivened with enough lewd misbehavior to put a smile on even the stoniest face." Linda Barrett Osborne called the book "entertaining and clever" in her Chicago Sun-Times review. Further, she observed, "In his cynical assessment of human nature, George puts his finger on a certain truth—that a country just emerging from civil war needs to believe in miracles, in healing." William O'Rourke, reviewing the book for the World and I, found it to be "an entirely successful satire" and "a riot of dedicated humbug and slapstick denunciation."
In addition to his more fantastical writing, Jacobs has also written the novel Summer on a Mountain of Spices, set in the Catskill Mountains of New York and recounting a typical tourist season at one of the many resort hotels in the region. The novel has become, according to Phil Brown, in an interview with Jacobs posted at the Catskills Institute Web site, "an underground favorite . . . with the Catskill reading crowd." Jacobs explained to Brown why he chose to write about the Catskills: "Everything I'd read or seen about the so-called Jewish Alps struck me as hoaky and one-dimensional and I wanted to do something more worthy, meaningful and honest. There was also the fact that my family ran one of those small family hotels and the people involved were not getting any younger. I suppose part of my motivation was to give them some small gift."
"Jacobs is not a prolific writer, but he is a uniformly good one . . . ," explained the essayist for the St. James Guide to Science-Fiction Writers. "His voice, though infrequently heard, is one of intelligent wit and an insightful perception of humanity's gift for the absurd, and his reputation in the field, considering the relatively small size of his genre work, is a testimony to the impact those few stories have made on readers."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Science-Fiction Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Chicago Sun-Times, November 23, 1997, Linda Barrett Osborne, review of American Goliath: Inspired by the True, Incredible Events surrounding the Mysterious Marvel Known to the Astonished World As the Cardiff Giant, p. 25.
Locus, February, 1993, p. 25.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, January 10, 1993, James Sallis, review of Beautiful Soup: A Novel for the Twenty-first Century, p. 6.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June, 1998, Robert K. J. Killheffer, review of American Goliath, p. 39.
Nation, September 22, 1969, p. 287.
New York Times Book Review, December 14, 1969, p. 44.
Publishers Weekly, August 11, 1997, review of American Goliath, p. 382.
Washington Post Book World, December 21, 1980, p. 4.
World and I, February, 1998, William O'Rourke, review of American Goliath, p. 279.
Catskills Institute Web site,http://www.brown.edu/Research/Catskills_Institute/ (May 27, 2003), Phil Brown, "Interview with Harvey Jacobs."*