Doris Grumbach

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Doris Grumbach
Born Doris Isaac
(1918-07-12) July 12, 1918 (age 100)
New York, New York, US
Occupation Novelist, memoirist, biographer, teacher, bookstore owner
Alma mater Washington Square College of New York University
Leonard Grumbach
(m. 1941;div. 1972)
Partner Sybil Pike (1972-present)
Children 4

Doris Isaac Grumbach (born July 12, 1918) is an American novelist, memoirist, biographer, literary critic, and essayist. She taught at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and American University in Washington, DC, and was literary editor of The New Republic for several years. For two decades, she and her partner, Sybil Pike, operated a bookstore, Wayward Books, in Sargentville, Maine, until 2009 when they moved to a retirement home in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. She turned 100 in July 2018. [1]

A novelist is an author or writer of novels, though often novelists also write in other genres of both fiction and non-fiction. Some novelists are professional novelists, thus make a living writing novels and other fiction, while others aspire to support themselves in this way or write as an avocation. Most novelists struggle to get their debut novel published, but once published they often continue to be published, although very few become literary celebrities, thus gaining prestige or a considerable income from their work.

Memoir type of autobiographical or biographical writing

A memoir is a collection of memories that an individual writes about moments or events, both public or private, that took place in the subject's life. The assertions made in the work are understood to be factual. While memoir has historically been defined as a subcategory of biography or autobiography since the late 20th century, the genre is differentiated in form, presenting a narrowed focus. A biography or autobiography tells the story "of a life", while a memoir often tells a story "from a life", such as touchstone events and turning points from the author's life. The author of a memoir may be referred to as a memoirist or a memorialist.

College of Saint Rose

The College of Saint Rose is a private, independent, co-educational, not-for-profit college in Albany, New York, United States, founded in 1920 by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet. It is one of six colleges in the United States sponsored by the Sisters of Saint Joseph. The College enrolls a total of approximately 4,863 students.



Grumbach was born in New York City, a fifth-generation Manhattanite, to Leonard William and Helen Isaac. [2] She grew up in Manhattan, where she attended elementary school PS 9. A very bright student, she skipped many grades and entered high school at age eleven. She was not prepared socially for this early advancement and did poorly, developing a stammer and losing her self-confidence. She was encouraged by the principal to take a year off from high school, and when she returned, she was an indifferent student in the classroom but showed talent in theater and in creative writing. In her senior year, she won a citywide short story contest, which helped secure her admission to Washington Square College of New York University. She majored in philosophy and graduated Phi Beta Kappa, receiving her BA degree in 1939. She earned her MA degree in medieval literature in 1940 from Cornell University. [2]

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States and the U.S. state of New York. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

Manhattan Borough in New York City and county in New York, United States

Manhattan, often referred to locally as the City, is the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City and its economic and administrative center, cultural identifier, and historical birthplace. The borough is coextensive with New York County, one of the original counties of the U.S. state of New York. The borough consists mostly of Manhattan Island, bounded by the Hudson, East, and Harlem rivers; several small adjacent islands; and Marble Hill, a small neighborhood now on the U.S. mainland, physically connected to the Bronx and separated from the rest of Manhattan by the Harlem River. Manhattan Island is divided into three informally bounded components, each aligned with the borough's long axis: Lower, Midtown, and Upper Manhattan.

PS 9 Sarah Anderson School

Public School 9, The Sarah Anderson School is a public elementary K–5 neighborhood catchment school that offers two programs: Renaissance and Gifted. Founded in 1830, P.S. 9 is located on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, New York City.

At Cornell, she met her future husband, Leonard Grumbach, who had his doctorate in neurophysiology. They were married on October 5, 1941, and during 1940–41, Grumbach worked for Loew's Inc./MGM writing subtitles for films distributed abroad. During 1941–42, she was employed as a proofreader for Mademoiselle magazine and then for the journal Architectural Forum in 1942–43, eventually rising to the position of associate editor. When her husband was drafted during World War II, Grumbach joined the Navy in 1943 as an officer in the WAVES and served in the Navy from 1943 to 1945. [3]

Neurophysiology is a branch of physiology and neuroscience that is concerned with the study of the functioning of the nervous system. The primary tools of basic neurophysiological research include electrophysiological recordings, such as patch clamp, voltage clamp, extracellular single-unit recording and recording of local field potentials, as well as some of the methods of calcium imaging, optogenetics, and molecular biology.

<i>Architectural Forum</i>

Architectural Forum was an American magazine that covered the homebuilding industry and architecture. Started in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1892 as The Brickbuilder, it absorbed the magazine Architect's world in October 1938, and ceased publication in 1974.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

After the war, Grumbach moved around the country with her husband as he taught physiology. During this period, the Grumbachs had four daughters: Barbara, Jane, Elizabeth, and Kathryn. Before the birth of their fourth daughter, the Grumbachs settled in Albany, New York, where Leonard Grumbach taught at Albany Medical College and Doris Grumbach began a career in teaching. From 1957 to 1960, she taught senior English at the Albany Academy for Girls. In 1960, she became a professor of English at the College of Saint Rose in Albany and taught there until 1971. During her time at the college, Grumbach also began to focus on her writing career and published her first two novels, The Spoil of the Flowers (1962), and The Short Throat, The Tender Mouth (1964). In 1967 she published a literary biography of novelist Mary McCarthy titled The Company She Kept, based in part on correspondence and other documents which McCarthy had shared with Grumbach.

Physiology science of the function of living systems

Physiology is the scientific study of the functions and mechanisms which work within a living system.

Albany, New York Capital of New York

Albany is the capital of the U.S. state of New York and the seat of Albany County. Albany is located on the west bank of the Hudson River approximately 10 miles (16 km) south of its confluence with the Mohawk River and approximately 135 miles (220 km) north of New York City.

New York (state) State of the United States of America

New York is a state in the Northeastern United States. New York was one of the original Thirteen Colonies that formed the United States. With an estimated 19.54 million residents in 2018, it is the fourth most populous state. To distinguish the state from the city in the state with the same name, it is sometimes called New York State.

In 1971, after raising their children, Grumbach left her husband. She spent a year in Saratoga Springs, New York, helping to set up the external degree program at Empire State College. Following her 1972 divorce, she began a relationship with Sybil Pike, who became and remains her life partner. In 1972, accepting a position at The New Republic magazine as literary editor, she and Pike moved to Washington, D.C., where Grumbach worked for the magazine for two years. After it was sold, and she lost her job, [3] she remained in Washington and in 1975 accepted a position as professor of American literature at American University. During this time, she wrote a nonfiction column for The New York Times Book Review .

Saratoga Springs, New York City in New York, United States

Saratoga Springs is a city in Saratoga County, New York, United States. The population was 26,586 at the 2010 census. The name reflects the presence of mineral springs in the area, which has made Saratoga a popular resort destination for over 200 years.

Empire State College

Empire State College, one of the 13 arts and science colleges of the State University of New York, is a multi-site institution offering associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees, and distance degrees worldwide through the Center for Distance Learning. The School for Graduate Studies offers master's degrees. Empire State College's Center for International Programs also has special programs for students in Lebanon through the American University of Science and Technology, Czech Republic, and Greece. From 2005 to until 2010, Empire State College and Anadolu University in Turkey offered a joint MBA program. It also has arranged learning opportunities with UAW-Ford University, United Steelworkers of America, Corporate Noncredit Training, eArmyU, Navy College Program and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

<i>The New Republic</i> magazine

The New Republic is an American magazine of commentary on politics and the arts, published since 1914, with influence on American political and cultural thinking. Founded in 1914 by leaders of the progressive movement, it attempted to find a balance between a humanitarian progressivism and an intellectual scientism, ultimately discarding the latter. Through the 1980s and '90s, the magazine incorporated elements of "Third Way" neoliberalism and conservatism.

In 1979, Grumbach published the novel Chamber Music, which was critically well received and helped establish her reputation as a novelist. In six years, three more books followed: The Missing Person (1981), The Ladies (1984), and The Magician's Girl (1987). During this period, Grumbach also taught creative writing at the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa and at The Johns Hopkins University, where she substituted briefly for John Barth. Grumbach also was a book reviewer and commentator for the Morning Edition of National Public Radio and the televised MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour.

Iowa Writers Workshop MFA degree granting program

The Program in Creative Writing, more commonly known as the Iowa Writers' Workshop, at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, is a celebrated graduate-level creative writing program in the United States. Writer Lan Samantha Chang is its director. Graduates earn a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Creative Writing. It has been cited as the best graduate writing program in the nation.

University of Iowa public research university in Iowa City, Iowa, United States

The University of Iowa is the flagship public research university of the State of Iowa, United States. Its main campus is in Iowa City, Iowa. Founded in 1847, it is the oldest and the second largest university in the state. The University of Iowa is organized into 11 colleges offering more than 200 areas of study and seven professional degrees.

Johns Hopkins University Private research university in Baltimore, Maryland

The Johns Hopkins University is a private research university in Baltimore, Maryland. Founded in 1876, the university was named for its first benefactor, the American entrepreneur, abolitionist, and philanthropist Johns Hopkins. His $7 million bequest —of which half financed the establishment of Johns Hopkins Hospital—was the largest philanthropic gift in the history of the United States up to that time. Daniel Coit Gilman, who was inaugurated as the institution's first president on February 22, 1876, led the university to revolutionize higher education in the U.S. by integrating teaching and research. Adopting the concept of a graduate school from Germany's ancient Heidelberg University, Johns Hopkins University is considered the first research university in the United States. Over the course of several decades, the university has led all U.S. universities in annual research and development expenditures. In fiscal year 2016, Johns Hopkins spent nearly $2.5 billion on research.

In 1985, Grumbach resigned her professorship at American University but remained in Washington, D.C., for five more years. She and Pike opened a bookstore for rare and used books, named Wayward Books, located near Eastern Market, on Capitol Hill.

In 1990 Grumbach and Pike moved to Sargentville, Maine, and opened their bookstore there. [4] In 2009 Wayward Books and their house in Maine were sold. They moved to a Quaker retirement community in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Grumbach continues to write, contributing pieces of memoir and articles on old age to The American Scholar. [5] [6] [3]

Critical reception of Grumbach's work

Several facets of Grumbach’s work have won her both praise and criticism. Grumbach is often lauded as a feminist writer championing the cause of women in her fiction and revealing the economic, social, and psychological difficulties women face. Other critics find her work not feminist enough and regard her portrayals of women characters as stilted. Grumbach is both highly regarded and often criticized for her focus on gay and lesbian characters. A number of her works, such as The Spoil of the Flowers, Chamber Music, and The Ladies, focus on gay and lesbian themes and characters. Grumbach writes in a wide range of genres, as a novelist, literary critic, essayist, biographer, memoirist, and cultural critic.

As a writer who explored gay and lesbian themes in the 1950s and 1960s, Grumbach tends to be grouped with other groundbreaking authors who explored these themes and issues at a time in which the popular sentiment was to regard homosexuality as deviant behavior. Such writers as Ann Bannon, Marijane Meaker, Sylvia Townsend Warner, and Patricia Highsmith explored gay and lesbian themes in positive ways similar to Grumbach. As Ann Cothran, a literary critic of writers on lesbian themes and author of a study on Simone de Beauvoir states, perhaps Grumbach’s “most important contribution to gay and lesbian literature is the manner in which she consistently represents homosexual relationships matter of factly, as an integral part of the human landscape. Grumbach depicts lesbianism as a positive, life-giving force in women's lives.”

Grumbach’s novels tend to be literary and literate in tone in that she often draws upon well-known writers or writings for her titles and for references within her works. For example, she drew her title for The Spoil of the Flowers from a poetic fragment by Euripides, the title for The Short Throat, The Tender Mouth from "The Pardoner’s Tale" in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, and The Magician’s Girl from a poem by Sylvia Plath. In addition, Grumbach’s writings often refer to well-known or arcane writings; her dialogues or internal monologues have phrases from Latin, French, and other languages.

Critics have noted that she has drawn from historic persons and events for her fiction. In Chamber Music, for example, she bases the characters and the plot on the American composer Edward MacDowell and his wife, Marian, upon Marilyn Monroe in The Missing Person, upon Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby in The Ladies, and Sylvia Plath and Diane Arbus in The Magician’s Girl.

A significant part of her reputation and current audience is based upon her two memoirs that focus upon aging: Coming into the End Zone and Extra Innings. She has also explored spiritual reflections about her life in The Presence of Absence: On Prayers and an Epiphany and in her memoir Fifty Days of Solitude. [7] Grumbach has written introductions and critical assessments to the works of such writers as Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, and Zora Neale Hurston. Grumbach also wrote an influential review of the novel Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor. Her article on an aborted plan to write a biography of Willa Cather was published in The American Scholar in January 2001. [3]

Grumbach remains an important author for the focus she brought to women’s lives and women’s struggles in the redefinition of women’s roles from the 1950s onward. This dimension is especially true with regard to her positive presentations of lesbians and lesbian lifestyles. Grumbach is admired for her writing style and characterization, which often presents overtones of Henry James and of Gustave Flaubert and Jane Austen in Grumbach’s focus upon social conventions and their influence upon the development of individual lives and psyches. Grumbach is one of several 20th-century women writers, such as Sylvia Townsend Warner, Valentine Ackland, and Katherine Mansfield, who represent a transition from Victorian styles and emphases combined with the social and psychological concerns of modernism.[ citation needed ] Grumbach’s papers (from 1938 to 2002) are archived in the New York Public Library (Humanities and Social Sciences Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division). [8]

She received the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from Publishing Triangle in 2000.

Bibliography [9]




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