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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Drawn from one's surrounding life

“[The writer] must essentially draw from life as he sees it, lives it, overhears it or steals it, and the truer the writer, perhaps the bigger the blackguard. He lives by biting the hand that feeds him.” – Charles R. Jackson

Born on this date in 1903, Jackson was an American author widely known for his mostly autobiographical novels, including The Lost Weekend, published in 1944 and adapted into an Academy Award-winning Best Picture in 1945.   The novel – his first – and subsequent film thrust Jackson into a limelight in which he wasn’t always comfortable, although he did enjoy a fairly distinguished lecture circuit career from the book and film successes.

A native of New Jersey, he attended Syracuse University, studied journalism, and wrote for a number of newspapers before gravitating over to books – both writing and selling them.  He wrote several more novels with varying success and also wrote a number of well-received short stories coupled with a very successful stint as a scriptwriter for radio soap operas.  But his career was derailed by illness and alcohol.

Hospitalized for a number of years with both tuberculosis and alcoholism, he had about a 15-year hiatus before writing one more successful book, another somewhat autobiographical novel A Second-Hand Life, shortly before his death in 1968.

Jackson blamed his demise more from the early successes he had than from his longtime illness.  “The writer knows his own worth,” he lamented,  “and to be overvalued can confuse and destroy him as an artist.”

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