ALICE S. MORRIS: A FIERCE CONTEMPT FOR BIGOTRY

2015-04-15 03.04.45

Alice S. Morris was one of Marianne Hauser’s closest personal friends, and she was also a vitally important professional friend. Morris was the literary editor at  Harper’s Bazaar from 1951-1968 and she published many of Hauser’s stories, as well as excerpts from her novel Prince Ishmael. In 1965 she edited The Uncommon Reader, a collection of Harper’s Bazaar stories which includes Hauser’s The Abduction, an hallucinatory journey into exile taken by a Hungarian composer. It is based largely on the life of Erno Dohnanyi, whom she knew in the 1950’s, in Tallahassee,  where he was teaching and where Fred Kirchberger got his PhD. Morris died at age 90 in 1993. Alice S. Morris was one of several adventurous mid-century editors at fashion magazines. These women’s magazines became a market for serious literary fiction. She was preceded by George Davis, who was at Harper’s Bazaar from 1936-1941, who then moved to Mademoiselle until 1949. Betsy Blackwell was the editor and chief of Mademoiselle from 1937-1971. Mademoiselle was a Conde Nast publication, which for a time was a partner of McBride’s, where Coby Gilman worked editing Travel. Carson McCullers, Truman Capote, Jean Stafford, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, James Baldwin, Jane Bowles, Paul Bowles, and Tennessee Williams are some of the many authors published by these fashion magazines early in their careers. When Hauser published Dark Dominion her friend Marguerite Young reviewed it in Vogue alongside McCullers’ A Member of the Wedding and Capote’s short stories.
Morris was married to Harvey Breit, a novelist and editor who reviewed books for the Times in the 40’s (his Times obit gives different dates than the Wikipedia article for his NYT tenure). When she died, Hauser wrote this about her old friend:

Alice S. Morris Obit
COPYRIGHT ESTATE OF MARIANNE HAUSER COLLECTION OF MICHAEL KIRCHBERGER

 

Published by

Jon Frankel

This website is dedicated to the life and career of novelist Marianne Hauser (1910-2006). Marianne Hauser wrote 9 novels, and dozens of short stories. Her first novel, Monique, was published in German when she was 22 and living in Paris. Her last novel, Shootout with Father, was published by FC2 in 2002, when she was 91. She moved to New York in 1937 after traveling through Asia and North Africa alone, as a reporter. Only three of her works remain in print today: The Talking Room, her best known work, a brilliant, subversive and hilarious novel about a pregnant 13 year old being raised by warring lesbian parents, published by the Fiction Collective in 1976, Shootout with Father, and The Collected Short Fiction of Marianne Hauser (2004). These books are available from FC2. Her other American books, Dark Dominion (1947), The Choir Invisible (1958), Prince Ishmael (1963), A Lesson in Music (1964), The Late Memoirs of Mr. Ashley (1986), and Me & My Mom (1993), are out of print but easy to find used and in libraries. This is a collaborative project. Its purpose is to promote her work and make available to interested readers as much information as I can unearth about her. In Hauser's long life she made many professional and personal friends. Her agent was Perry Knowlton and her first book was published by Bennett Cerf six years after she took him to task over Gertrude Stein in her New York Times review of Ida. In 1963 Prince Ishmael was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and was a New York Times notable book of the year. From the 1970s through to 2004 her writing was published and reviewed by different incarnations of the Fiction Collective and Sun & Moon Press. She wrote reviews for the American Book Review and appeared in journals like Fiction International, Blatant Artifice, Witness. If you knew her or are studying her work I welcome contributions, memoirs, interviews, letters, analyses, what have you. Since at least the seventies writers have lamented that she is not better known. Many people have tried to bring her greater recognition: Alice S. Morris, Anais Nin, Marguerite Young, the writers at the Fiction Collective, Larry McCaffery, Sinda Gregory, Douglas Messerli, Margot Mifflin, Ed Cardoni, and Professor Andrea L. Harris, among others. Just about everyone who has written about her has wondered why her work is neglected. Hauser cared little for self-promotion and was impatient with compromise. She was an anti-authoritarian enchantress, intelligent, intuitive, playful, and genuine. She wrote every day on a small manual Olivetti typewriter and tirelessly revised. She was passionate about politics and art. Friends called her Bear. Her final work, Little Buttercup, written for her granddaughter, is subtitled, the happiest bear in the world.

5 thoughts on “ALICE S. MORRIS: A FIERCE CONTEMPT FOR BIGOTRY”

  1. i would like to send you a photo that i have—- side of a horse drawn delivery wagon in chicago with “Marianne now in the evening American”
    with a drawn portrait of her

  2. I did not know Ms. Hauser, but I was privileged to be a student of Alice Morris at extension classes which met at night at The New School in New York. I twice took her class in the mid-80s and once she invited some students to her home for an evening of reading and drinks. I’ll never forget the sound of her voice, or, rather, the soothing, friendly basis of it. When she read our work she made it sound elegant, polished and exceptional. Maybe it was, sometimes. Her voice exalted it all, always. She encouraged me to pursue publication and to this extremely insecure writer, there was no better teacher nor there ever will be. Her compliments to me were jewels.

    1. Peter,thank you so much for your comment and for reading. She was certainly an important editor before she taught at the New School and encouraged women especially. Marianne Hauser spoke of her in every interview I’ve read as well as in her autobiographical essay, and dedicated her book Me and My Mom to her. You were a lucky student. I wish I had met her. –Jon

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