Novelist and playwright Joseph K. Caldwell was born on October 2, 1928, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His education included studies at Marquette University, Columbia University, and three years in the graduate program of the School of Drama at Yale University. Caldwell's talent and promise as a playwright were recognized early in his career: he received two "John Golden Fellowships in Play writing" at Yale University (1956-1957) and an American Broadcasting Company Fellowship in Playwriting, also at Yale.
Joseph Caldwell's plays have been produced off-Broadway, as well as being transformed into television scripts. New York productions of his plays include Cockeyed Kite at the Actors' Playhouse, The Downtown Holy Lady at the Greenwich Mews Theatre, and Jack Fallon, Fare Thee Well by the Joseph Jefferson Theatre Company. The School of Drama at Yale University produced two of his plays, namely, The Bridge and Clay for the Statues of Saints.
Caldwell has written several playscripts for television. The National Broadcasting Corporation has broadcast his Giant Killer, Trajan, The Bridge, and Down on the Farm. Educational Television has featured Caldwell's The Storm Born and The Old Man.
Joseph Caldwell may be more widely known for his four novels, published between 1978 and 1992. In Such Dark Places (1978), for which Caldwell was awarded an American Academy in Rome Fellowship in Creative Writing in 1979, was his first novel. Following In Such Dark Places, Caldwell wrote Deer at the River (1984), Under the Dog Star (1987), and The Uncle From Rome (1992). Caldwell's most recent novel, Bread for the Baker's Child, was published by Sarabande Books in 2002.
Joseph Caldwell's writing career has been supplemented by occasional acting roles in television programs or plays and by serving as a reader for several publishing agencies. He has also taught fiction writing at Columbia University, New York University, Hofstra University, and the 92nd Street YM-YWHA, as well as playwriting at the State University of New York and The New School.
For more than fifteen years Joseph Caldwell has been associated with the artists' colony of Yaddo, in Saratoga Springs, New York; first as a guest and later an assistant to the President. As a letter nominating Caldwell to the Corporation of Yaddo suggests, his work as an assistant "is vital to maintaining the comfort and tranquillity of Yaddo's guests." In 1993 Caldwell was elected to membership in the Corporation of Yaddo. Yaddo has played a more significant role in Caldwell's life in recent years, as the frequency and length of his residency at the artists' colony has increased. Likewise, his influence on young writers and artists has grown. In his role as assistant at Yaddo, he has inspired and encouraged a number of writers and artists criticism and advice. Many of the letters in the correspondence section convey the gratitude of these artists as well as their respect for Caldwell.
The Uncle from Rome by Joseph Caldwell
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books (January 1, 1993)
Amazon: The Uncle from Rome
Michael Ruane, an undistinguished opera singer from Indiana, has come to Naples to play a minor role in an important production of Tosca and an important role in a minor production of Curlew River . As this shrewd and splendid novel begins, the diva starring in Tosca asks Michael to play yet a third role. It is, she tells him, an old Neapolitan custom to pay a distinguished-looking man to attend family functions and pose as the "uncle from Rome," his presence suggesting the host's prestige and social standing, and she wants Michael to appear at the wedding of local friends in the guise of the groom's uncle. Michael agrees, entangling himself in a complex drama that rivals the two operas in its passion and surpasses them in its capacity for perpetual surprise. Caldwell ( Under the Dog Star ) balances the theatrics of his plot with an understated narration, and weights his themes--the interplay of life and art--with careful, colorful observations. (Of laundry hung out to dry, for example, he writes: "The bold emblems or the tattered banners sent out their jubilant or melancholy news, and one could tell at a glance who was favored and who was scorned by the local gods.") The finale is nothing short of extraordinary. Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Bread for the Baker's Child: A Novel by Joseph Caldwell
Paperback: 284 pages
Publisher: Sarabande Books; 1 edition (January 1, 2002)
Amazon: Bread for the Baker's Child: A Novel
After nearly ten years, Joseph Caldwell returns to the literary scene with a rich novel of immense and resonant scope. With Dostoevskyian ambition, Bread for the Baker's Child sets out to probe the large questions of good and evil, culpability and sacrifice, and the meaning of suffering.
In this tale of two lives immutably intertwined, Sister Rachel is a nun in a failing order, a painter with a history of madness, devoted to her dying Mother General. Her brother Phillip is an accountant serving time for embezzlement, a man capable of great violence and anger who has turned his back not simply on the church, but faith as well. They have nothing in common except for a shared childhood tragedy.
Or do they? In this masterful display of structural precision, Caldwell slowly unravels the complementary nature of these two lives—at first glance hermetically sealed from one another—until their shared fate becomes a symbiotic relationship, as though they were two sides of the same coin, intersecting and reflecting one another. Through events operatic in tone and reach, Rachel and Phillip come to redefine our notions of love and kinship, and embody the human need for redemption and forgiveness.