Geismar, Maxwell (1909-1979)

The Maxwell Geismar collection includes manuscripts, correspondence, printed material, legal material, financial material, photographs, audio, memorabilia, and other items.

Manuscripts by Geismar in the collection include A Girl Grows Up (unpublished novel, 1938); Writers in Crisis: The American Novel, 1925-1940 (1942); The Portable Thomas Wolfe, edited by Geismar (1946); The Last of the Provincials: The American Novel, 1915-1925 (1947); Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, edited by Geismar (1949); Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, edited by Geismar (1949); Rebels and Ancestors: The American Novel, 1890-1915 (1953); The Whitman Reader, edited by Geismar (1955); American Moderns: From Rebellion to Conformity (1960); a collection of Jack London’s short stories, edited by Geismar (1960); a collection of Sherwood Anderson’s short stories, edited by Geismar (1962); Henry James and the Jacobites (1963); introductions to Herman Melville’s Billy Budd and Benito Cereno (1965); proofs of the introduction to Marian Cox’s memoir The Sphinx Wore an Orchid (1967); Unfinished Business: the James M. Rosenberg Papers, edited with a preface by Geismar (1967); the introduction to Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice (1968), along with a typed draft and proofs of the complete work; the introduction to New Masses: An Anthology of the Rebel Thirties, edited by Joseph North (1969); Mark Twain: An American Prophet (1970); Ring Lardner and the Portrait of Folly (1972); Mark Twain and the Three R's: Race, Religion, Revolution and Related Matters, edited by Geismar (1973); The Higher Animals: A Mark Twain Bestiary, edited by Geismar (1976); Geismar’s posthumously-published autobiography Reluctant Radical (2003); and numerous articles, essays, book reviews, lectures, speeches, political statements, introductions, and prefaces.

The collection also includes the writings of Geismar’s family. Manuscripts by son Peter Geismar include his biography of Frantz Fanon, titled Fanon (1970), as well as an unproduced film treatment. Also present is his dissertation for Columbia University (1966) and an unfinished book-length expansion of that work, as well as several articles (regarding Algeria, Charles De Gaulle, Frantz Fanon, Latin America, Vietnam, and other subjects), book reviews, and school papers and notes. Most of this material is unpublished.

Manuscripts by wife Anne Geismar in the collection include her book-length memoir Here I Am (unpublished, 2003-2005), as well as her research material and notes; her afterword to Reluctant Radical; book reviews for Critic’s Choice ; her short memoir of John Howard Griffin; and other items. The collection also includes some articles by daughter Katie Seiden, an artist, for The Gazetteer.

Many manuscripts in the collection are from various authors who sent either their drafts or proofs to Geismar for him to critique, edit, and/or review. These works include Tunc, by Lawrence Durrell (1968); Islands in the Stream, by Ernest Hemingway (1970); Being Geniuses Together, by Robert McAlmon (1968); The Right of Revolution, by Truman Nelson (1968); Go Down Dead, by Shane Stevens (1966); The Experimental Novel, collected essays by Emile Zola (1964); Notes from a Sea Diary (1965) and The Last Carousel, by Nelson Algren; “Fiction: The Flashlight,” short story by Eldridge Cleaver; The American Inquisition, by Cedric Belfrage (1973); various poetry and prose by Robert Bonazzi; several books by Jakov Lind (1964-1972); Nothing Ever Breaks Except the Heart, by Kay Boyle (1966); The John Howard Griffin Reader, edited by Bradford Daniel (Houghton Mifflin, 1967); Forgive My Grief, by Penn Jones, Jr. (1966); Go to the Widow-Maker (1966) and The Ice Cream Headache (1967), by James Jones; The First Circle, by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, translated by Thomas Whitney (1968); Tana de Gamez’s introduction to Carlos Frongui’s The Twelve ; Hear the Wind Blow! by John Beecher; a biography of Mai Skelly Dresser, by Vera Dreiser; Van Wyck Brooks and the Problem of American Culture, by Jane Hoopes; Straitjacket, by Edita Morris (1978); several poems by various authors; and other items.

Correspondence in the collection is extensive, consisting of numerous personal and professional letters. The letters date from ca. 1920 to 2002, and include letter to and from Geismar and his family on a variety of subjects. There are too many notable correspondents to list in full; especially rich is the correspondence with Nelson Algren, Menachem S. Arnoni, Eleanor (Mrs. Sherwood) Anderson, Robert Bonazzi, Kay Boyle, Van Wyck Brooks and Gladys (Mrs. Van Wyck) Brooks, Eldridge Cleaver, Virginia Durr, P. D. East, Tana de Gamez, John Howard Griffin, Anais Nin, J. B. Priestley, Paul Roazen, Thomas Sancton, and Shane Stevens.

Other notable correspondents include Brooks Atkinson, Jacques Barzun, John Beecher, Cedric Belfrage, Saul Bellow, Theodore Bikel, Cass Canfield, Aaron Copland, James Drought, Vera (Mrs. Theodore) Dreiser, August Derleth, Albert Einstein, Ralph Ellison, Martha Gellhorn, Allen Ginsberg, Ernest Hemingway, Warren Hinckle, Alger Hiss, Hubert Humphrey,  Maude Hutchins, James Jones, Robert Kennedy, Rockwell Kent, Jonathan Kozol, Ring Lardner, Harding Lemay, Jakov Lind, Philip Lopate, Conrad Lynn, H. L. Mencken, Arthur Miller, Henry Miller, Lewis Mumford, Victor Navasky, Richard Nixon Linus Pauling, Mario Puzo, Jr., Henry Roth, Bayard Rustin, Edgar Snow, Leopold Stokowski, William Styron, Gay Talese, and Edmund Wilson.      

Significant subjects covered in the letters are various publishing matters; the Morton Sobell case; Geismar’s work for the Pulitzer Prize committee; form letters and other mailings from various liberal organizations; fan mail; and other topics.

Printed material in the collection primarily consists of the published versions of Geismar’s writings, especially his articles, essays, and book reviews. Several periodicals are represented, including American Dialog, Chicago Sunday Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times, Minority of One, Monthly Review, Ramparts, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, and Women’s Artist’s News. Also present are reviews of and advertisements for Geimar’s books; introductions; letters to the editor; short items mentioning Geimsar; items inscribed to Geismar; several items regarding Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice ; various items sent to Geismar, primarily articles and poems; calendars; organizational mailings; reprints; brochures; research material on Cambodia (1964-1966), Alger Hiss (1960s-1970s), and the Beats (1950s); files regarding Kate Seiden’s Dupe (1990-1997); posters for lectures; several posters, leaflets, flyers, and newsletters regarding the Weather Underground, including several issues of Osawatomie (1975-1976); and other material.

Legal material in the collection includes publishing and production agreements; personal documents, such as birth and marriage certificates; real estate property documents; and insurance documents.

Financial material in the collection includes expenses and assets, investment portfolios and security statements; receipts; bank statements; bills; invoices; and bonds, among other items.

Photographs in the collection include several prints of Geismar and his family. Photos of others include images of Eldridge Cleaver, Theodore Dreiser, John Howard Griffin, Jakov Lind and his family, Conrad Lynn, and Truman Nelson (photos taken by John Howard Griffin). Photos date from the 1920s to the 1990s. Also present are several prints by Father George Curtsinger (1968-1970) and black and white prints of sketches of members of the Weather Underground.

Audio recordings in the collection consist of reel-to-reel tapes, primarily recorded radio broadcasts and lectures. These date from 1960 to 1971.

Memorabilia in the collection includes political buttons (including “Eldridge Cleaver for President”), Geimsar family genealogy material; personal files regarding Geismar’s friends, family, and travels; a signed cartoon of Ann Geismar by Rube Goldberg; assorted watches, lighters, pens, stamps, and other desk supplies; a lock of Elizabeth Geismar’s hair (1942); a file on the Geismar, Rosenbert, Herman family tree (1996); and a Woodstock-brand manual typewriter, given to Geismar by Alger Hiss (who claimed it to be the typewriter on which he typed the “pumpkin papers”).

Other items in the collection include diplomas; scrapbooks; book illustrations and other artwork; notebooks, date books, diaries, and journals; professional material; medical records; and a video cassette recording of an oral history interview with Ann Geismar (1999).

Associated Subjects
1. Literary Collections Subject Guide
2. Radio Subject Guide
3. Criticism Subject Guide
4. The Vietnam War Subject Guide
5. Civil Rights Subject Guide