Volume 74, Number 13 | July 28 - August 03 , 2004

Obituaries


Ronald Sukenick, 72, novelist pushed fiction’s limits

By Albert Amateau

Ronald Sukenick, a writer whose novels and stories over the past 38 years have been credited with breaking new literary ground, died Thurs. July 22 at his home in Battery Park City at the age of 72.

He was diagnosed in 1992 with inclusion body myositis, a rare muscular disease with no known cure and which confined him to a wheelchair for the past three years, according to his sister, Gloria Sukenick, a Chelsea housing activist.

Two years ago, the American Academy of Arts and Letters gave him the Morton Zabel prize of $10,000, awarded every two years to innovative writers. Russell Banks, who presented the Zabel award, said, “Ronald Sukenick has methodically pushed the formal possibilities of American fiction to its limits and in the process has discovered illuminating new pathways to the center of the human psyche.”

His first novel, “Up,” was published in 1968 when he lived in the East Village and his last, which he finished revising two weeks before his death, will be published in the fall. His novel “Out” was adapted as a film in 1982 featuring Danny Glover and Peter Coyote. His other novels include “98.6,” “Mosaic Man” and “Cows.” He moved to Battery Park City 15 years ago.

Born in Brooklyn, he attended Cornell University where he was founding editor in 1953 of The Cornell Writer, a magazine in which a short story of his caught the unfavorable attention of school administrators, who threatened to suppress publication.

Sukenick was an English professor and creative writing director at the University of Colorado. He founded The Fiction Collective, an avant-garde publishing house, and was founding editor of American Book Review.

In addition to his sister, his wife, Julia Frey, a former professor of French literature and author of “Toulouse-Lautrec: A Life,” also survives. A memorial service will be announced later.

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