Maxwell Bodenheim

Maxwell Bodenheim

Birth
Hermanville, Claiborne County, Mississippi, USA
Death 6 Feb 1954 (aged 61)
New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Paramus, Bergen County, New Jersey, USA
Memorial ID 10552118 · View Source
Suggest Edits

Novelist and Poet. Once considered a leading modernist author of the early 20th Century, he is credited with introducing the spirit of French Naturalism into American Literature. His novel "Replenishing Jessica" (1925), a brutally frank tale about a young woman's sexual liberation among seedy bohemians, was the subject of a famous obscenity trial that helped loosen censorship restrictions in the United States. When the court ruled in Bodenheim's favor, New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker concurred with the quip, "No girl has ever been seduced by a book." Bodenheim was born in Hermanville, Mississippi, and moved to Chicago with his family in 1900. There he became the center of a literary clique that included his good friend (and later enemy) Ben Hecht. His first book of poetry, "Minna and Myself" (1918), was praised by Carl Sandburg, William Carlos Williams, and Conrad Aiken. In 1920 Bodenheim settled in Greenwich Village, New York, and lived there the rest of his life. During the Jazz Age he was called America's "King of the Literary Bohemians" and was notorious for his drinking, feuding, and womanizing. At his prime he was said to have resembled a young Kirk Douglas or Pat Riley, and women apparently found him irresistible. In one frenetic year, 1928, two ladies killed themselves after he dumped them, and two more attempted suicide. (A fifth ex-girlfriend died in a subway crash, her pockets stuffed with Bodenheim's love letters). Despite all this dissipation he was a fairly prolific writer, producing 13 novels, 10 volumes of poems, and the memoir "My Life and Loves in Greenwich Village" (1950). His other works include the poetry collections "Introducing Irony" (1922), "The Sardonic Arm" (1923), and "Against This Age" (1925), and the novels "Blackguard" (1923), "Naked on Roller Skates" (1930), and "New York Madness" (1933). Bodenheim's reputation declined after the Great Depression and by the early 1950s he was a homeless derelict, selling poems for drinks and panhandling. During the freezing New York winters he made his much younger third wife, alcoholic former journalist Ruth Fagin, prostitute herself in exchange for shelter. This activity cost both their lives. On February 7, 1954, the couple were found murdered in a dingy, heatless room; Bodenheim had been shot twice, Fagin stabbed to death. The confessed killer, Harold Weinburg, was judged incompetent to stand trial and served six years in a mental institution. The crime made Bodenheim news one last time, after which he receded from history. Today his books are out of print and he is remembered primarily for his dissolute life and lurid demise.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


Family Members

Spouse

Advertisement

Plan a visit to Cedar Park Cemetery?

Advertisement

Advertisement

How famous was Maxwell Bodenheim?

Current rating:

30 votes

Sign-in to cast your vote.

  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bobb Edwards
  • Added: 3 Mar 2005
  • Find A Grave Memorial 10552118
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Maxwell Bodenheim (26 May 1892–6 Feb 1954), Find A Grave Memorial no. 10552118, citing Cedar Park Cemetery, Paramus, Bergen County, New Jersey, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .