Morrow, Bradford 1951-
MORROW, Bradford 1951-
PERSONAL: Born April 8, 1951, in Baltimore, MD; son of Ernest Dean (an employment manager) and Lois (Hoffman) Morrow; married Kathleen Anderson, April 23, 1975 (divorced, 1984). Education: Liceo Scientifico, Turin, Italy, graduated with honors, 1968; University of Colorado at Boulder, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1973; attended Yale University.
CAREER: Professional jazz musician and music teacher, 1970-74; self-employed as a rare book archivist in California, 1974-81, and in New York, 1981-82; Conjunctions (literary magazine), New York, NY, founding editor, 1981—; Bard College, fellow and professor of literature, 1990—. Literary executor for the Kenneth Rexroth Trust, 1982—. Juror, Pennsylvania State Council on the Arts, 1986, and Open Voice awards, 1989. Poetry reader and lecturer at Brown University, Ohio State University, New York University,
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Bard College, State University of New York at Buffalo, Books & Co., Dixon Place, Simon's Rock of Bard College, Temple University, Manhattan Theatre Club, University of Colorado, Rhode Island School of Design, and Shippensburg University.
MEMBER: PEN American Center (board of trustees member, 1998-2002), Contemporary Council of Literary Magazines, (advisory board, 1986—), New Writing Foundation, Inc. (president, 1985—).
AWARDS, HONORS: CCLM Editor's award, 1984, and 1988; General Electric Foundation award, 1985; General Electric Foundation Younger Writer's award, 1988, for editing Conjunctions; New York Foundation for the Arts Grant in fiction, 1989; PEN/Faulkner Award nomination, 1992, for The Almanac Branch; Los Angeles Times Book Award nomination, 1995, for Giovanni's Gift; Academy Award in Literature, 1998, American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Pushcart Prize, 2002, and O. Henry Prize shortlist, 2002, both for the story "Amazing Grace."
(With Bernard Lafourcade) A Bibliography of the Writings of Wyndham Lewis, Black Sparrow Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1978.
(With Seamus Cooney) A Bibliography of the BlackSparrow Press, Black Sparrow Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1981.
Passing from the Provinces (poems), Cadmus Editions (Santa Barbara, CA), 1981.
Posthumes (selected poems, 1977-82), Cadmus Editions (Santa Barbara, CA), 1982.
Danae's Progress (poems), Cadmus Editions (Santa Barbara, CA), 1982.
The Preferences (poems), Grenfell Press (New York, NY), 1983.
(Editor and author of introduction) Selected Poems ofKenneth Rexroth, New Directions (New York, NY), 1984.
After a Charme (poems), Grenfell Press (New York, NY), 1984.
(Editor and author of foreword) Kenneth Rexroth, Classics Revisited (Book-of-the-Month-Club alternate), New Directions (New York, NY), 1986.
(Editor) Thirty-Six Poems of Tu Fu, with etching by Brice Marden, Peter Blum Editions, 1987.
(Editor and author of introduction) World Outside theWindow: Selected Essays of Kenneth Rexroth, New Directions (New York, NY), 1987.
Come Sunday (novel), Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988, Collier (New York, NY), 1989.
(Editor and author of introduction) Kenneth Rexroth, More Classics Revisited, New Directions (New York, NY), 1989.
A Bestiary, illustrations by Joel Shapiro, Eric Fischl, Kiki Smith, Richard Tuttle, Louisa Chase, and Gregory Amenoff, Grenfell Press (New York, NY), 1990.
(Editor, with Patrick McGrath) The New Gothic (textbook anthology of contemporary Gothic fiction), Random House (New York, NY), 1991.
A Conjunctions Reader, Paris Review Editions, 1991.
The Almanac Branch (novel), W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1992.
Trinity Fields (novel), Viking (New York, NY), 1995.
The Unquiet Country, Viking, (New York, NY), 1997.
Giovanni's Gift, Viking (New York, NY), 1997.
Ariel's Crossing (novel), Viking (New York, NY), 2002.
(Editor, with Sam Hamill) The Complete Poems ofKenneth Rexroth, Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), 2002.
Contributor of stories, poems, and essays to magazines, including the Village Voice, Paris Review, and Washington Post. Contributing editor of Blast, 1981.
ADAPTATIONS: A musical version of A Bestiary was broadcast on WCKR radio, New York.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A novel, The Prague Sonatas, a collection of essays, Mediations on a Shadow, and a collection of short stories, Amazing Grace.
SIDELIGHTS: Seeking the adventure lacking in his humdrum American upbringing, Bradford Morrow traveled to Latin America and Italy after high school in an effort to gain some knowledge of the world before attending medical school. His literary career began almost by accident when he was staying with a family in Italy who turned him on to the works of the poet Ezra Pound. Guided by Pound's Cantos and his body of literary criticism, Morrow became a selftaught disciple of literature with a special interest in poetry. By the time he returned to the United States, he abandoned his plan to become a doctor and found himself in California, where he struck up a friendship with the poet Kenneth Rexroth. Rexroth quickly became Morrow's mentor, and shortly before Rexroth's death, the poet made Morrow his literary executor. The two had discussed plans to launch a journal about music and literature; plans that Morrow carried out on his own after Rexroth's death. The resulting journal, Conjunctions, became a well-respected forum of avant garde writing by leading literary thinkers, and began Morrow's career as an editor. Over the course of the next decade, Morrow published bibliographies of poetry and collections of poetry by other writers before evolving into a respected poet and novelist in his own right. With such titles as The Almanac Branch, Giovanni's Gift, and Ariel's Crossing, Morrow has earned critical accolades for his works, which, Morrow stated in an interview with Bomb magazine, "explore how the culture works at a macrocosmic level, as well as an individual level."
In The Almanac Branch, Morrow's second novel, he tells the story of a troubled woman plagued by migraine headaches—headaches so severe that they cause hallucinations. Morrow told Michael Coffey of Publishers Weekly that the book was spawned by his fascination with memory, "how it functions as a part of imagination; specifically, how memory reorganizes the realities we live through." The story concerns Grace, a woman who has been plagued by headaches and their accompanying flashing lights since childhood. In particular, she is haunted by a vision of "the flare man," who appears in a tree outside her bedroom window, and prompts her family to move from Manhattan to an island farm. As a child, Grace also participated in an incestuous relationship with one of her brothers, which was witnessed in part by another brother. Her mother is by turns depressed and fretful, and her father is consumed by his business and is consequently remote. With the tragedies of death and insanity, the family begins to disintegrate, and Grace clings to fragments of her life in order to gain a sense of community and belonging. Grace's efforts to tell her story give the novel its title: Her calendar becomes her diary in which she tries to make sense of her fractured history. Critics responded favorably to the novel and its psychological portrayal of a wounded mind. "The author's language . . . hews closely to Grace's troubled mind," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
Morrow turns to grander themes in Trinity Fields, a novel that explores the psychological and environmental fallout of the atomic age as it pertains to its two main characters, Kip Calder and Brice McCarthy, who were born on the same day in 1944 to fathers involved with the U.S. government's nuclear weapons program at Los Alamos. The two boys, fast friends in childhood, eventually fall in love with the same woman. She becomes pregnant with Kip's child, but he abandons her in order to fight in Vietnam. Brice, who becomes an anti-war activist, marries her and raises the child as his own. Despite their divergent paths, Kip and Brice are inextricably bound by their ties of friendship and their shared history. After an absence of twenty years, Kip returns from Southeast Asia, where he remained after the war, and reunites with Brice on Good Friday in a desert chapel in New Mexico.
More than a book about friendship, Trinity Fields is a meditation on the horror of the nuclear age and how the possibility of redemption exists alongside the road to oblivion. In calling Trinity Fields "one of this year's notable books," Brooke Horvath of the Review of Contemporary Fiction also commented on the theme of how "personal guilt—over the betrayal of friends, insufficient demonstrations of the love one feels for family—is inextricably entangled with national wrongdoing." Donna Seaman, writing in Booklist, explained that the characters' "private conflicts echo the calamities of war," and that "Morrow equates hope and redemption with telling the truth."
Giovanni's Gift melds elements of suspense with a morality tale. Called back home to his aunt and uncle's ranch out west where he was raised, Grant, a recently divorced drifter, is determined to find out why his aunt and uncle are being tormented by a stranger with bizarre nighttime escapades. Before long, Grant falls in love with Helen, the daughter of the caretaker Giovanni, whose death on his aunt and uncle's ranch years earlier is an unsolved mystery. Grant is drawn to the story, and he uncovers fragments of Giovanni's diary along with talisman-like souvenirs that fuel his curiosity about the man's death, his secret love life, and the questions surrounding Helen's birth. According to John Hiett of Library Journal, Giovanni's Gift contains "original ideas" and "stylish prose" in a Gothic setting. A critic for Publishers Weekly complimented the novel's "sustained mood of strangeness and disquiet."
Kip Calder and Brice McCarthy return in Ariel's Crossing, in which Ariel, who has been raised to believe that Brice is her father, begins a cross-country journey to discover her real father, Kip, whose identity she has only recently discovered. Ariel, an editor at a New York publishing house, initially expresses no desire to delve into her past. But when she becomes pregnant by a boyfriend from whom she is quickly becoming estranged, she sets out to find Kip. Kip's restlessness makes him hard to track, but he ends up in New Mexico, weakened by lymphoma and trying to help Delfino Montoya reclaim his ranch, which was seized by the U.S. government as part of the Manhattan Project, on which Montoya worked.
Once again, Morrow presents conflict on both the personal and societal levels. Ariel's Crossing is "a powerful, multilayered novel," wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, with "evocative chapters about the tumultuous effect of political events on the lives of his protagonists." Seaman, writing in Booklist, praised Morrow for "[dissecting] the bonds of family and land . . . and [assessing] the toll the nuclear menace exacts from our collective soul." The novel opens with the ghost of Dona Francisca de Pena, who haunts the arid land of New Mexico just as she haunts the narrative, becoming "a symbol of a past that won't just recede as pasts normally do," wrote Jay Parini in the New York Times Book Review, "She is also a reminder that whatever we love dearly remains a part of us, however we may try to escape its pull."
The landscape of the American West figures prominently in many of Morrow's novels. Reviewing Giovanni's Gift for the Boston Globe, Gail Caldwell wrote that "Morrow is a landscape painter of contemporary fiction; like his artistic counterparts of a century ago, he evokes a certain mood and even momentum, or narrative thrust, by the scenes he chooses to evoke." In Trinity Fields, which takes place in the stark land of New Mexico, "Morrow [evokes] wild Western landscapes magnificently," wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, "in all their glorious weathers and shifting lights." He is also observant in his use of language, a fact often commented on by critics. The novelist Paul West, writing for the online journal Web del Sol, compared Morrow's prose style to that of Henry James, and stated that "Morrow is one of the few who cares about the minutiae of this art and do something about it by crafting sentences that, while continually surprising us with their content, reassure us by fulfilling rhythmic promises."
Morrow once told CA: "Since the earliest years of childhood I have experimented—for reasons which still escape me, though I've attributed it to everything from spiritual mandate to sheer ennui—with various art forms. I've been a musician, a painter, and a writer and have tried to be serious about 'perfecting' the craft of each; it has emerged that, of the three, what I handle best is words. I've tried playwriting, poetry, and fiction; it turns out that the latter is the best format for what I seem to know. There is no motivation which I can personally fathom beyond the actual initiating and then completing of a text."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bomb, spring, 1995, interview with Bradford Morrow.
Booklist, February 1, 1995, Donna Seaman, review of Trinity Fields, p. 991; May 15, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of Ariel's Crossing, p. 1576.
Boston Globe, February 2, 1997, Gail Caldwell, "Mood and Mystery: The Best Thing about Bradford Morrow's Whodunit Is Its Grand Backdrop of the American West," p. N19.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1991, review of The AlmanacBranch, p. 427; August 15, 1991, review of The New Gothic, p. 1036.
Library Journal, May 15, 1991, review of The Almanac Branch, p. 109; June 15, 1997, John Hiett, review of Giovanni's Gift, p. 113.
Los Angeles Times, August 13, 1987; May 19, 1988.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 31, 1985; May 5, 1991, review of The Almanac Branch, p. 6; April 9, 1995, review of Trinity Fields, p. 8.
New York Times Book Review, February 10, 1985; July 14, 1991, review of The Almanac Branch, p. 21; March 8, 1992, review of The New Gothic, p. 12; March 9, 1997, review of Giovanni's Gift, p. 7; June 30, 2002, Jay Parini, "The War at Home," p. 13.
Publishers Weekly, May 3, 1991, review of The Almanac Branch, p. 61; June 14, 1991, Michael Coffey, "Bradford Morrow: The Search for Home and Community Mark His Career—And His Second Novel," p. 41; January 2, 1995, review of Trinity Fields, p. 58; November 18, 1996, review of Giovanni's Gift, p. 60; April 7, 1997, a review of Giovanni's Gift, p. 33; June 24, 2002, review of Ariel's Crossing, p. 41.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, fall, 1991, review of The Almanac Branch, p. 272; fall, 1995, Brooke Horvath, review of Trinity Fields, p. 223.
Times Literary Supplement, December 8, 1995, review of Trinity Fields, p. 21; July 4, 1997, review of Giovanni's Gift, p. 23.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), March 26, 1995, review of Trinity Fields, p. 5; March 9, 1997, review of Giovanni's Gift, p. 3.
Conjunctions,http://www.conjunctions.com/ (December 2, 2002).
Web Del Sol,http://www.webdelsol.com/morrow/bmwest.htm/ (August 19, 2002), "Paul West on Giovanni's Gift."*