Time magazine called his 1978 debut novel “one of the best fictional studies of madness, descent, and purification that any American has written since Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The New York Times hailed his second novel as “one of the most desperately funny books we’ve been given in a long time.”
Yet the name of New York author Donald Newlove, now 91, has been all but obliterated from the late 20th-century American literary landscape. That’s all about to change, hopes independent publisher Rick Schober, owner of the one-man Arlington operation Tough Poets Press.
Last January, Schober published the first-ever new edition of Newlove’s Sweet Adversity, a sweeping 600-page semiautobiographical novel about alcoholic Siamese twin wannabe jazz musicians. Originally published as two separate novels — Leo & Theodore (1970) and The Drunks (1972) — Newlove edited them into a single volume, explaining in his introduction to the original edition that “the story loses scope and focus when halved into two books.”
Considering how well the original novels were received when they were first published, it’s surprising that both this book and its author fell off the literary radar.
Dramatic AA meetings
Lis Harris, writing in the New Yorker, called Sweet Adversity “a dazzling highwire act ... the sheer inventiveness and strength of his writing turn risk into triumph, drunken monologues into subtle satire, AA meetings into riveting dramas, and what in another writer might be bathos into brilliant comedy ... probably the most clear-eyed and moving—and certainly one of the most honest—books ever written about alcoholics.”
Newlove recounted his own alcoholism, along with that of other prominent American authors, in his memoir Those Drinking Days: Myself and Other Writers (1981). "Intoxication does mist and spiral in these pages,” wrote James Wolcott in his Esquire review, “but it’s the intoxication of language … writing in all its peacock splendor, writing that crackles and sings.”
Subsequent works by Newlove failed to find an audience and, eventually, even a publisher.
Shortly after the release of the Tough Poets Press edition of Sweet Adversity, Newlove sent Schober the manuscript for his unpublished 1998 novel, The Wolf Who Swallowed the Sun. Subtitled “A Jungian Fable of Family and Finance Across the Twentieth Century,” the novel is a sweeping saga of one family’s greed, extortion, and double-crossing as they strive to acquire a controlling interest in the world’s wealth.
It is also the story of Billy Baxter, heir to this massive fortune who, with the help of a married couple of Chinese-Swiss Jungian psychologists (one of whom he has fallen in love with), seeks atonement for his family’s sins. As an added twist that only a first-rate storyteller like Newlove could credibly pull off, Baxter also happens to be descendant from an ancient clan of humanoid wolves on the brink of extinction.
The Wolf Who Swallowed the Sun is scheduled for publication by Tough Poets Press on July 15.
Donald Newlove was born in Erie, Pa., in 1928, and lives in New York City’s Greenwich Village. As a reporter, book reviewer and short-story writer, he has had work appear in Esquire, New York Magazine, Evergreen Review and The Saturday Review.
Tough Poets Press is a one-person independent publisher of rediscovered offbeat literary fiction and nonfiction founded in 2015. Works published include:
The Whole Shot: Collected Interviews with Gregory Corso (2015)
Sarpedon, a play by Gregory Corso (2016)
The Self-Devoted Friend: 50th-Anniversary Edition by Marvin Cohen (2017)
Baseball as Metaphysics by Marvin Cohen (2017)
What Are They All Waiting For: Collected Stories, Poems & Essays (1944-1962) by Gil Orlovitz (2018)
Confessions of a Nowaday Child by Erje Ayden (2018)
Sweet Adversity by Donald Newlove (2019)
Ice Never F by Gil Orlovitz (2019)
Lonely Boy Blues: 75th-Anniversary Edition by Alan Kapelner (2019)
Feb. 10, 2015: Tough poet: Arlington publisher renews Beat poet's voice
This extended announcement was published Thursday, May 30, 2019.
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