[Marxism] NYT obit on Sol Yurick
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
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
“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
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
“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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