Jackson's first published story, "Palm Sunday", appeared in the Partisan Review in 1939. It focused on the debauched organist of a church the narrators attended as children.
In the 1940s Jackson wrote a trio of novels, beginning with The Lost Weekend published by Farrar & Rinehart in 1944. This autobiographical novel chronicled a struggling writer's five day drinking binge. It earned Charles R. Jackson lasting recognition.
The following year Paramount Pictures paid $35,000 for the rights to adapt the novel into the a film version of the same name. The Academy Award winning film was directed by Billy Wilder and starred Ray Milland in the lead role of Don Birnam.
Jackson's second published novel of the 1940s, titled The Fall of Valor, was released in 1946 and takes its name from a passage in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. Set in 1943, it detailed a professor's obsession with a young, handsome Marine. The Fall of Valor received mixed reviews, and, though sales were respectable, was considerably less successful than Jackson's famous first novel.
Jackson's The Outer Edges was released in 1948 and dealt with the gruesome rape and murder of two girls in Westchester County, New York. The Outer Edges also received mixed reviews, and sales were poor relative to his previous novels.
Vintage Cover by George Mayers
Jackson's later works included two collections of short stories, The Sunnier Side: Twelve Arcadian Tales (1950) and Earthly Creatures (1953), as well as a novel, A Second-Hand Life (1967).
Charles R. Jackson was born in Summit, New Jersey in 1903. He moved to Newark, New York in 1907, and nine years later his older sister, Thelma, and younger brother, Richard, were killed while riding in a car that was struck by an express train. He graduated from Newark High School in 1921.
As a young man he worked as an editor for local newspapers and in various bookstores in Chicago and New York prior to falling ill with tuberculosis. Jackson spent the years 1927-1931 in sanatoriums and eventually recovered in Davos, Switzerland. His successful battle cost him a lung and served as a catalyst for his alcoholism. He returned to New York at the height of the Great Depression and his difficulty in finding work spurred on his binge drinking. His battle to stop drinking started in late 1936 and was largely won by 1938, the year in which he married. During this time he was a free-lance writer and wrote radio scripts.
The 1944 publication of The Lost Weekend catapulted his career toward success. He moved briefly to Hollywood in the Summer of 1944 and shortly thereafter to New Hampshire with his growing family, including his two young girls. He lived on and off at his home in New Hampshire for ten years. At the height of his career, Charles R. Jackson lectured at various colleges. In the mid-1950s he began struggling with finances and moved with his family to Connecticut.
Jackson spoke about alcoholism to large groups, sharing his experience, strength and hope. A recording of his talk in Cleveland, OH in May 1959 is available (vide infra xa-speakers). He was the first speaker in Alcoholics Anonymous to openly address drug dependence (Barbiturates and Paraldehyde) as part of his story.
After relapsing into alcoholism Jackson became estranged from his family and rented an apartment in New York City that was shared with his lover in 1965. Jackson suffered from Chronic Lung Disease and committed suicide via an overdose of sleeping pills in his room at the Hotel Chelsea in New York City on September 21, 1968.
Whether he was gay or bisexual is unclear; Anthony Slide, a modern scholar, asserts "Charles R. Jackson [was] identified as bisexual late in life."
A self-proclaimed alcoholic, Jackson's novel, The Lost Weekend, is a heart breaker about Don Biman, a gay man on a five-day binge who is constitutionally incapable of honesty and succumbs to the deadly disease. (Disclosure: my second novel, “A Comfortable Corner”, is about a gay man living with an active alcoholic who successfully enters a recovery program at the end.) Jackson's scorching, unforgettable novel was praised deservedly to the sky when it was published in 1944 and was made into an Oscar-winning movie in 1945--when Oscar was no laughing matter--by Billy Wilder with Ray Milland and the divine Jane Wyman playing Helen, Don's patient friend in the book transformed into his love-object in a fine movie stripped of Don's gay soul. I just reread this masterpiece recently and was moved to tears yet again at its terrifying end when Don crawls into bed wondering, "Why did they make such a fuss?" Oy! --Vincent VirgaFurther Readings:
Farther and Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson by Blake Bailey
Paperback: 528 pages
Publisher: Vintage (December 3, 2013)
Amazon: Farther and Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson
Amazon Kindle: Farther and Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson
Charles Jackson’s novel The Lost Weekend—the story of five disastrous days in the life of an alcoholic—was published in 1944 to triumphant success. Although he tried to escape its legacy, Jackson is often remembered only as the author of this thinly veiled autobiography. In Farther & Wilder, the award-winning biographer of Richard Yates and John Cheever goes deeper, exploring Jackson’s life—from growing up in the scandal-plagued village of Newark, New York, to a career in Hollywood and friendships with everyone from Judy Garland and Billy Wilder to Thomas Mann and Mary McCarthy. This is the fascinating biography of a writer whose life and work encapsulated what it meant to be an addict and a closeted homosexual in mid-century America, and who was far ahead of his time in bringing these forbidden subjects into the popular discourse.
This journal is friends only. This entry was originally posted at http://reviews-and-ramblings.dreamwidth.org/2953456.html. If you are not friends on this journal, Please comment there using OpenID.