Ted Solotaroff Remembering; Remembering Ted Solotaroff
EDITOR'S NOTE: Ted [Theodore H.] Solotaroff was an incisive literary and cultural critic and one of the most important and influential editors of the post-sixties era. Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in1928, he died from complications of pneumonia in East Quogue, Long Island, in the summer of 2008. After serving in the U.S. Navy (1946–48), he enrolled at the University of Michigan, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and received his B.A. degree in 1952. He went on to pursue graduate studies in English at the University of Chicago, where he taught in the undergraduate program and was awarded an M.A. in 1956. Solotaroff subsequently abandoned a doctoral dissertation on the works of Henry James and took a position as associate editor of Commentary magazine, working there from 1960 to 1966 with chief editor Norman Podhoretz.
He was named editor of the New York Herald Tribune’s weekly “Book World” in 1966, and the next year became founding editor of the New American Review, which was published from 1966 to 1970 and reappeared as American Review from 1972 to 1977. In the phase of his career that followed, he was widely known as an editor at several prominent publishing houses—Simon & Schuster, Bantam Books, Harper & Row—and he regularly gave lectures or taught courses in English and creative writing at numerous colleges and universities, among them Yale, Columbia, the University of California at Berkeley, and the City College of the City University of New York. He had four sons (Paul, Ivan, Jason, and Isaac) from his first three marriages (to Lynn Friedman, Shirley Fingerhood, and Ghislaine Boulanger), which ended in divorce. In 1981 he married Virginia Heiserman, whose only published story, a remarkable one, appeared in NER Vol. 22, #3 (2001). Among his most often-cited publications are three compilations of his own work—The Red Hot Vacuum, and Other Pieces on the Writing of the Sixties (1970); A Few Good Voices in My Head (1987); and The Literary Community (2007), as well as An Age of Enormity, a posthumous collection of essays by Isaac Rosenfeld which he edited in 1962. In addition, with Nessa Rapoport he edited two anthologies of contemporary Jewish fiction (1992 and 1996), a 1991 volume of selected writings by Milton Klonsky (with an introduction by Mark Shechner), and Alfred Kazin’s America: Critical and Personal Writings, published in 2003.
In his preface to The Red Hot Vacuum, Solotaroff noted that “the market for serious writing cracked open in the Sixties and soon became a kind of howling forum where all manners of ideas, styles, and standards contended for attention.” Under these , his own writing “became a way of responding somewhat more directly and individually to the altered environment of letters and, inevitably, to the political, social, and cultural developments that related to it”; increasingly, he was concerned with “letting into [his] own work some of the impact of the drastic changes that took place in [his] private life, some of the truths that had come with the blows” when his “pattern of living and feeling foundered, and the consciousness that broke through pressed for expression.” Pursuing this determination further, in his last years Solotaroff published two volumes of autobiography: Truth Comes in Blows (1998) and First Loves (2003). The pages that appear in this issue are taken from a third memoir, unfinished and unpublished, which reflects on the transformations of the literary scene that were beginning to take place at the time of his arrival in New York from the University of Chicago.