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Burt Blechman passed away at age 71 on December 29, 1998 in Providence, Rhode Island of pancreatic cancer. He was survived by his companion John Marsh.

His first novel, "How Much" was adapted by Lillian Hellman for Broadway, and praised by Alfred Kazan as "a book that comes off with painful power ...inimitable." Critically acclaimed by W.H. Auden, Anita Loos, and Susan Sontag, he subsequently wrote four novels, "The War Of Camp Omongo," "Maybe," "Stations," and "The Octopus Papers."

"Turn Off The Television Awhile," wrote Saul Bellow, "and for the sake of your souls, read Burt Blechman." A generous contributor to The Yivo Institute for Jewish Research and the Pearl Theatre, he was a brilliant conversationalist and wit.

The New York Review of Books wrote of "The War Of Camp Omongo": "As extra-literary social pressures have slackened, the gain in artistic range and depth has been unquestionable. The American-Jewish novelist has been emancipated; Bernard Malamud’s generation finally struck off the fetters of uncompromising naturalism, and younger men like Mr. Blechman and Mr. Simckes take their freedom for granted." To this the same Burt Blechman answered, in a letter to the Editors:

"Crucify me if I ever write another book about Jews. Frankly, I have had it. Your reviewer’s grouping me with the OY GEVALTers was the final stroke. To date, I have written two novels with a Jewish background. Reviewers who favor them invariably use the expression “About a family who just happen to be Jewish.” Well, they didn’t just happen. They weren’t born that way, they didn’t choose to be that way. I made them that way. And I promise never to do it again.

Reviewers take note. Henceforth, you will have to place Blechman in a different category. No more “a young Jewish novelist” or “among our newer and more jaded Jewish writers.” I know it will be hard, this refusal to wear the shoe that fits, to sleep in the bed my parents made. But I’m weary of that literary and oh-so-handy Star of David. I’m off to another category. If you think I can’t stick daggers into Protestants, just try me. If you think I’m afraid of the Index, wait and see. Call it a betrayal of trust, call it heresy, but I’m tired of being typed.

So farewell Bar-Mitzvah. It’s been great needling you. Farewell, bankrupt garment manufacturer, I don’t want it wholesale. Goodbye, stout-hearted Mamala, Tantala and old Granny Stern. I’m off to new lands. Maybe Christian Scientists, Seventh Day Adventists, a novel about the Stations of the Cross. The main thing is to shake those critics off my trail, make them lose the scent, backtrack, confuse them. What I mean to say is—no more OY’s for me."

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/1999/01/10/classified/paid-notice-deaths-blechman-burt.html

Further Readings:

HOW MUCH?: A Novel by B. Halpern as told to Burt Blechman by Burt Blechman
Publisher: Avon (1961)
Amazon: HOW MUCH?: A Novel by B. Halpern as told to Burt Blechman

More LGBT History at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Gay Classics

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