January 04, 2006

"First you dream, then you die..."

Today, after a long, long, long afternoon of botched writing attempts, I thought, as I usually do when I feel like a failure, about the melancholy life of Cornell Woolrich-- the world’s most underappreciated pulp fiction master.

I've been reading Woolrich's paranoid thrillers for most of my adult life. A couple years ago, I even interviewed Woolrich’s biographer Francis M. Nevins for a magazine story that never panned out, in true Woolrich failure fashion.

A few months later, Nevins had this amazing Woolrich article published in The Believer magazine, in honor of Woolrich’s 100th birthday. My editor killed the Woolrich story the same week, and I buried my head in the sand.

Despite that initial failure, I hung on to my notes about Woolrich. Today, I am happy to announce, I just published my own spoken-word tribute to Woolrich here at Travel Goat, the New York City podcast archive. In honor of Woolrich and my own battle against obscurity, I wrote:

“His biography title sums it all up: 'First you dream, then you die.' Cornell Woolrich was the godfather of the noir fiction, and his paranoid, twisty prose inspired masterpieces like Hitchcock’s Rear Window. While his hardboiled characters lived out adventures, Woolrich lived in hotel suites with his mother for 30 years.

After his mother's death in the Fifties, Woolrich drank himself to death in the Sheraton Russell. Woolrich fans celebrate his centenary in 2003, but nobody remembers him at the hotel. When I interviewed his friend Donald Yates about the hotel, he told me, ‘Why don't you just make up a room number? I assure you that no one will protest.’

It's lonely reminder of how fickle fame can clean anyone's hotel room, and then wait for the next doomed guest to arrive..."

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