Sunday, August 17, 2008

Who's Almost Who: Samuel Ornitz

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Among his many accomplishments, Samuel Ornitz, who lived as a young man at 75 Eldridge Street, was a contributing writer for the 1935 Mark Of The Vampire:
an excerpt from metroactive
Joyce on a Mission, By Harvey Pekar
Samuel Ornitz--novelist and blacklisted screenwriter--was an unsung pioneer of stream of consciousness: IF ANYONE remembers Samuel Ornitz at all today, it's as a screenwriter who was one of the Hollywood 10; his reputation as a novelist didn't survive the 1920s. Despite the neglect, Ornitz is a significant literary figure whose work deserves to be kept in print and read by anyone who cares about the evolution of the American novel.
Born in 1890, Ornitz is a link between Yiddish-speaking, foreign-born American novelists such as Anzia Yezierska and Abraham Cahan, who were mainstream stylists, and the daring Jewish fiction writers of the 1930s: Daniel Fuchs, Nathanael West and Henry Roth.
Ornitz belonged to a forgotten avant-garde movement that employed stream-of-consciousness techniques before the 1922 publication of James Joyce's Ulysses brought the method to general attention. In 1887, Edouard Dujardin published an entire stream-of-consciousness novel, Les Lauriers sont coupés. Other writers who were using stream-of-consciousness passages prior to the 1920s were George Moore, Arthur Schnitzler, Romain Rolland, Dorothy Richardson, May Sinclair and André Bely.
In the U.S., James Oppenheim employed a bit of stream-of-consciousness in his 1914 story cycle Pay Envelope, which anticipated Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. Waldo Frank used the technique in his first novel, The Unwelcome Man, published in 1917. Probably under Frank's influence, Evelyn and Cyril Kay Scott, Harlem Renaissance novelist Jean Toomer, Elliot Paul and Ornitz incorporated stream of consciousness into their writings by the mid-1920s.
The pre-Joycean stream-of-consciousness style, influenced by impressionistic French symbolist poetry, was often spare, peppered with ellipses and relatively easy to follow, as in this excerpt from Ornitz's 1923 Haunch, Paunch and Jowl (sometimes titled Allrightnik's Row):
An anguished hiss; the living sap is scorched as in a sea of hate. Change in conflict. Hiss, sizzle, hiss. Moaning, dying, expiring in a simmer. Overboard. The sacrificial crackle in answer: overboard with her, overboard; we're burning up for you. ... The world's agony is told in a sigh ... Gretel ... get rid of her. Esther; don't think of her, don't think of her, don't, don't. Esther ...

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