[Marxism] NYT obit on Sol Yurick

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jan 9 09:41:27 MST 2013


January 9, 2013
Sol Yurick, Author of ‘The Warriors,’ Dies at 87
By WILLIAM YARDLEY

Sol Yurick, a writer whose best-known work, the 1965 novel “The 
Warriors,” recast an ancient Greek battle as a tale of warring New York 
street gangs and earned a cult following in print, on film and 
eventually in a video game, died on Saturday in Manhattan. He was 87.

The cause was complications of lung cancer, said his daughter, Susanna 
Yurick.

Before “The Warriors” was published, Mr. Yurick had worked for many 
years as an investigator for the New York City Department of Welfare. He 
had grown up poor in the Bronx, the son of Communist activists who 
struggled to survive the Depression but believed their politics would 
ultimately rule the world. The people he served at the Welfare 
Department struck him as very different. They, too, were impoverished, 
but they seemed not to believe that they could change things through 
politics.

“Some of the children of these families were what was then called 
juvenile delinquents,” Mr. Yurick wrote in an introduction to an edition 
of “The Warriors” published in 2003. “Many of them belonged to fighting 
gangs. Some of these gangs numbered in the hundreds; they were veritable 
armies. This social phenomenon was viewed, on the one hand, as the 
invasion of the barbarians, only this time they came from the inside 
rather than from the outside.”

Mr. Yurick had read widely in his youth, absorbing Proust, Camus and 
Classic Comics. He was 40 and a determined leftist when he completed 
“The Warriors,” his first published novel, in which a New York gang 
flees from the Bronx to its home turf in Brooklyn, often by subway, 
after a night (the Fourth of July) of unexpected conflict involving a 
failed effort at pan-gang unity. Along the way there is a rape and the 
casual killing of a bystander.

He based the story on “Anabasis,” written by the Greek soldier Xenophon, 
who helped lead the retreat of 10,000 Greek soldiers after their failed 
conquest of Persia about 400 B.C.

Mr. Yurick published several more novels, including “Fertig” and “The 
Bag,” both of which drew on his experiences with the Welfare Department 
in their portrayal of characters struggling at the margins of society. 
He also wrote short stories and nonfiction. In a review in The New York 
Times of his collection “Short Stories,” in 1972, Joyce Carol Oates said 
Mr. Yurick stood out for his effective use of realism, especially 
compared with writers whose more abstract work she found forced.“Any 
modestly gifted writer can venture into ‘surrealism,’ ” Ms. Oates wrote. 
“Few can handle the densities and outrageous paradoxes of ‘real’ life. 
The straightforward sections of ‘The Bag’ and ‘Fertig,’ and the 
un-fantasized horrors of this collection’s realistic stories, have a 
power to move us, urgently and deeply, that cannot be matched by any of 
the author’s superficially sophisticated contemporaries.”

Solomon Yurick was born in Manhattan on Jan. 18, 1925. He attended the 
Bronx High School of Science and served in the Army during World War II. 
He received a bachelor’s degree in English from New York University and 
a master’s in English from Brooklyn College. In addition to his 
daughter, he is survived by his wife of 54 years, the former Adrienne 
Lash, and a grandson.

Mr. Yurick wrote late in life that “The Warriors” was “not the best of 
my books.” Earlier, he had written “Fertig” in which a father kills 
seven people connected with the hospital that he blames for his 
3-year-old son’s death, and had high hopes for it, but it sat 
unpublished until after his first novel succeeded. Yet he was fascinated 
with the way “The Warriors” resonated when a movie version was released 
in 1979.

The film, directed by Walter Hill, who went on to direct “48 Hrs.” and 
other popular movies, included several changes to make it more palatable 
for a mainstream audience (among them: the rape was omitted, the gangs 
were racially mixed and the hero, who was black in the novel, was white 
in the movie). It received mixed reviews — many critics, among them Mr. 
Yurick himself, took aim at its unnatural dialogue — but it developed a 
following, helped Mr. Yurick’s book return to print and inspired popular 
video games for Xbox and PlayStation 2 that were released in 2005.

In the preface to the 2003 edition of “The Warriors” (“The Basis for the 
Cult Classic Film,” the cover says), Mr. Yurick said he wrote the book 
in part as a counterpoint to glamorized portrayals of gang life in 
popular culture, including “West Side Story.” He remembered Pauline 
Kael, the film critic for The New Yorker, calling him to ask about the 
plot’s high literary inspiration while she prepared a review of the 1979 
film.

“As I told her the tale,” he wrote, “I could sense that her excitement 
was growing; at last a hook for the intellectuals upon which to hang her 
review in The New Yorker. It was not only a glowing review, but she had 
also taken the trouble to read my book and mentioned it, glowingly.”




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