By Andrew Fish
As long as there has been writing there have been great writers. The list could go on forever, but among the Dantes’ and Hemmingways’ and Fitzgeralds’ and Steinbecks’ there is one name that is curious by its absence. If you know anything about great literature his name should be right up there with his more well known brethren. That name is Robert Nathan.
You may know a few of his titles, even without knowing who it was that wrote them. He is the mastermind behind The Bishops Wife and Portrait of Jennie. Even though those are his most famous works, they are far from the epitome of all his writings.
Nathan wrote over 40 novels and plays, and was a very accomplished poet as well. His run of writing from the late 1920’s until his last novel in 1978 spans more than just a lifetime of experiences, but the face of a world that changed more in those almost 60 years than at almost any period of history. Nathan’s work reflects not only the change in humans, but the change in humanity as well.
He is known as the master of Satiric Fantasy, and for good reason. I would venture to guess, that without the work of Nathan, Rod Serling would have nothing to base the very popular Twilight Zone series on. That’s the kind of amazing prose Nathan wrote.
But his words weren’t to frighten or shock the reader into submission, quite the contrary. Nathan was about taking the reader to whatever place he wanted them to go to, and feel whatever feelings they could. It wasn’t force-fed like so many of today’s writings, but more almost ethereal, to allow the reader in his (or her) own mind to go where he was taking them.
After speaking with Nathan’s stepson, Jeffrey Byron, I got a tremendous feeling for the man himself. You could hear the reverence in Jeffrey’s voice as he spoke of him. How Nathan and Jeffrey’s mother used to have parties in the hills above Hollywood, and the who’s who of the day would be there. From Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and John Wayne to literary icons like Harold Robbins. It was said if a bomb hit the house during one of these gatherings, the industry would shut down.
Nathan would sit in his chair in the living room, and by the end of the evening he would have several women lying at his feet, regaling in the tales he would tell. THAT’S the kind of story teller he is.
Some of his works have been made into films already, and the next great one may be Juliet in Mantua. It answers the question, what if Romeo and Juliet had not actually killed themselves, but everybody thought they had. How would their lives be 10 years later?
The one great thing about being in this day and age is that classic and timeless novels like the writing of Robert Nathan will not be lost forever. For all of you out there with E-Readers, Amazon is now releasing six titles at a time for you to enjoy. Byron’s favorites that are currently available are Stonecliff and the River Journey. Both of which I too highly recommend. For just $2.99, you get a wealth of literary greatness. The best part about it is, being able to discover an author who should have never been lost in the first place.