HomeLife StyleHerbert Gold, Postwar Novelist of Love and Marriage, Dies at 99

Herbert Gold, Postwar Novelist of Love and Marriage, Dies at 99

Mr. Gold settled in San Francisco in 1960 and divided his time between fiction, journalism and short teaching stints at several universities. His middle-period novels included “The Great American Jackpot” (1969), about a rebellious Berkeley student who robs a bank, and “Swiftie the Magician” (1974), about a man’s romantic involvement with three women.

In later novels, like “He/She” (1980), “True Love” (1982), “A Girl of Forty” (1986) and “She Took My Arm as if She Loved Me” (1997), he returned to the emotional territory of his earlier fiction, but with an older man’s understanding of love and its pitfalls. The still-smitten hero of “He/She,” for example, plunges into a crisis when his wife makes her unhappiness known. The California heroine of “A Girl of Forty” tries to work out the new rules for romance when youth is gone.

Beginning in 1953, Mr. Gold spent time in Haiti, living there with his family until 1955 and often visiting afterward, an experience that yielded an impressionistic book of reportage, “Best Nightmare on Earth: A Life in Haiti,” in 1991.

“I used to write very much out of dream and nightmare; the dreams because I enjoyed them and the nightmares in order to control them,” he told Saturday Review in 1963, in a discussion of his fiction. “There is still an element of that. It is the way I know the world.”

On Sept. 3, Mr. Gold participated in a poetry reading at the venerable City Lights bookstore in San Francisco (he lived nearby in the Russian Hill section) in celebration of its 70th anniversary. Two days later, Scribner’s published “Best American Poetry of 2023,” which includes a poem by Mr. Gold titled “Other News on Page 24.”

It reads in its entirety:

Someone famous will die that day,
My day,
And the newspaper will report:
“More obituaries on page 24.”
For the curiosity of some,
the regret of several,
and the grief of a few.
Those few, they matter,
So they have a nice walk
in the Marin headlands
shadowed by a weary and worn mountain
(still green! still fragrant!
with pine and transplanted eucalyptus,
and most important: Still there!),
where I’m proud that the few gather trash,
but drop my ashes downwind,
and remember as I fly away.

Bernard Mokam contributed reporting.

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