Morton, Frederic 1924- (Fritz Mandelbaum)
Morton, Frederic 1924- (Fritz Mandelbaum)
Born Fritz Mandelbaum, October 5, 1924, in Vienna, Austria; emigrated to the United States in 1943; son of Frank (a manufacturer of metal goods) and Rose Morton; married Marcia Colman, March 28, 1957 (deceased); children: Rebecca. Education: College of the City of New York (now City College of the City University of New York), B.S., 1947; New School for Social Research, M.A., 1949.
Home—New York, NY. Agent—Sandra Dijkstra Agency, PMB 515, 1155 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92014.
Writer, journalist, columnist, and educator. Lecturer in English and creative writing at University of Utah, New York University, University of Southern California, Johns Hopkins University, and New School for Social Research, 1951-59; freelance writer, 1959—. University of Nebraska, Tom Osborn Distinguished Lecturer, 1989. Also appeared in film adaptation of book Crosstown Sabbath, 1995. First worked as a baker.
Authors Guild, Authors League of America, PEN (executive board member).
Dodd, Mead Intercollegiate Literature fellow, 1947; Breadloaf Writers' Conference fellowship, 1947; Yaddo residence fellowship, 1948, 1950; Columbia University fellow, 1953; National Book Award nomination, National Institute of Arts and Letters, 1962, and Author of the Year award, National Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, 1963, both for The Rothschilds; American Book Award nomination in general nonfiction, 1980, for A Nervous Splendor: Vienna, 1888-1889; honorary professorship, President of the Austrian Republic, 1980; Golden Merit Award, City of Vienna, 1986; City of Vienna medal of honor in gold, 2001; Cross of Honor for Achievements in Arts, Republic of Austria, 2003.
The Hound, Dodd (New York, NY), 1947.
The Darkness Below, Crown (New York, NY), 1949.
Asphalt and Desire, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1952.
The Witching Ship, Random House (New York, NY), 1960.
The Schatten Affair, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1965.
Snow Gods, World Publishing (New York, NY), 1968.
An Unknown Woman, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1976.
The Forever Street, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1984, reprinted, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
The Rothschilds (biography), Kodansha International (New York, NY), 1962, reprinted, 1998.
A Nervous Splendor: Vienna, 1888-1889 (history), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1979.
Chocolate, an Illustrated History, Crown (New York, NY), 1986.
Crosstown Sabbath, Grove (New York, NY), 1987.
Thunder at Twilight: Vienna, 1913-1914, Scribner (New York, NY), 1989.
Runaway Waltz: A Memoir from Vienna to New York, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
Short Stories, Deuticke (Vienna, Austria), 1994.
Work anthologized in Best American Short Stories of 1965 and Best American Essays of 2003. Contributor of articles and short stories to numerous periodicals, including Holiday, Atlantic, Esquire, Reporter, Nation, Playboy, and New York Times Book Review. Columnist for periodicals, including Village Voice, Conde-Nast Traveler, and the Wall Street Journal. Frederick Morton's Vienna, a personal documentary, was produced and broadcast by Austrian State Television in 1992. Books have been translated into at least nineteen foreign languages.
The Rothschilds was made into a Broadway musical; Crosstown Sabbath was made into a television documentary, 2005; a musical, Rudolf, based on the book A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888-1889, opened at the Operetta Theater in Budapest, Hungary, 2006.
Fleeing Austria after its annexation by Hitler, Frederic Morton lived first in England and then in America. He worked in a bakery and took a B.A. in chemistry with the idea of some day running a bakery. When his first novel won the Dodd Mead Intercollegiate Literary Prize, Morton abandoned a baking career in favor of an academic and literary one. During the 1950s, he taught at various colleges while selling his freelance writing to magazines. In the late 1950s, he decided to devote himself full-time to writing. His first nonfiction work, The Rothschilds, has been translated into nineteen languages and made into a successful Broadway musical.
Morton fictionalized his family history to create The Forever Street. Set in his native Austria, the novel follows three generations of the Spiegelglass family from the close of the Austro-Hungarian Empire through World War I, and finally to the Nazi invasion of 1938. "Morton has chosen to weave a novel out of his memories, experiences, imagination and family folklore. The combination gives it, at times, the surreal quality of being refracted through a dream frozen in time," observed Washington Post contributor Faiga Levine. Much of the book takes place in Vienna, "which [the author] conjures up in Surrealist detail only to expose its unwavering though often elegant malevolence," noted Richard Plant in the New York Times Book Review.
Levine and Plant both noted that many of The Forever Street's characters and events, while vividly evoked, are inadequately explained. Because of this, maintained Levine, "too much of this rather bizarre fiction becomes a confusing blur much too soon." Plant, however, compares Morton's language to Vladimir Nabokov's and noted: "Mr. Morton has brought off a remarkable coup; he has psychologized a legend, yet never lost the punch of an energetic story. This is a novel of Vienna, old and very new, Jewish and gentile, rendered into seductive English by a transplanted Viennese, thus creating a confluence of multinational streams."
In his nonfiction book Crosstown Sabbath, Morton reflects on humanity and on his own life in the process as he rides a crosstown bus in New York. From people and places to politicians and the American dream, the author ponders issues such as the overemphasis on achievement in modern American life. Referring to the book as "wonderful," Campbell Geeslin, writing in People, thought the author "has done a brilliant job of working out much of modern man's dilemma."
Thunder at Twilight: Vienna, 1913-1914 focuses on events that would ultimately lead to World War I. The author writes on both famous people and events and lesser known players and commonplace happenings of the time. Phoebe-Lou Adams, writing in the Atlantic, noted that though scholars have debated "the advent of the First World War and the feverish mixture of social rigidity and artistic experiment that characterized the decaying Habsburg Empire ad infinitum," few have matched "Mr. Morton's skill in selecting meaningful detail and revealing quotation."
Morton presents a series of autobiographical essays in Runaway Waltz: A Memoir from Vienna to New York. Beginning with his childhood in Vienna, the author relates his family's flight from the Nazis. He details life in New York as an immigrant and his efforts to assimilate into American society. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the memoir "genuinely sentimental and stimulating on a generation's family values." Ali Houissa, writing in the Library Journal, referred to Runaway Waltz as an "elegant self-portrait,"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Morton, Frederic, Runaway Waltz: A Memoir from Vienna to New York, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
Atlantic, December, 1989, Phoebe-Lou Adams, Thunder at Twilight: Vienna, 1913-1914, p. 127.
Christian Science Monitor, August 4, 1976, review of An Unknown Woman, p. 23.
Harper's, December, 1965, review of The Schatten Affair, p. 134; February, 2002, Matthew Stevenson, review of Thunder at Twilight, p. 65.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2005, review of Runaway Waltz, p. 405.
Library Journal, May 15, 2005, Ali Houissa, review of Runaway Waltz, p. 126.
National Observer, February 3, 1969, review of Snow Gods, p. 21.
Newsweek, June 21, 1976, review of An Unknown Woman, p. 78B.
New Yorker, January 11, 1969, review of Snow Gods, p. 88.
New York Times, January 21, 1966, review of The Schatten Affair, p. 45; July 13, 1976, review of An Unknown Woman, p. 31; October 25, 1979, John Leonard, review of A Nervous Splendor: Vienna, 1888-1889, p. C17.
New York Times Book Review, January 5, 1969, review of Snow Gods, p. 38; September 12, 1976, review of An Unknown Woman, p. 41; November 18, 1979, Martin Green, review of A Nervous Splendor, p. 20; June 10, 1984, Richard Plant, review of The Forever Street, p. 9.
People, September 28, 1987, Campbell Geeslin, review of Crosstown Sabbath, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly, May 2, 2005, review of Runaway Waltz, p. 190.
Saturday Review, October 16, 1965, review of The Schatten Affair, p. 53.
Washington Post, June 11, 1984, Faiga Levine, review of The Forever Street.
Austrian Information,http://www.austrianinformation.org/ (July-August, 2006), Suzanne Derringer, interview with Frederic Morton.