[Marxism] Carol Brightman, 80, Dies; Profiled a Notable Writer and a Notable Band

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Nov 16 09:14:32 MST 2019


NY Times, Nov. 16, 2019
Carol Brightman, 80, Dies; Profiled a Notable Writer and a Notable Band
By Neil Genzlinger

Carol Brightman, who wrote a book on the novelist and critic Mary 
McCarthy, a traveler in rarefied literary circles, then wrote another on 
what might be considered McCarthy’s polar opposite, the Grateful Dead, 
died on Monday in Damariscotta, Maine. She was 80.

Her daughter, Sarabinh Levy-Brightman, confirmed the death. She said Ms. 
Brightman had a number of health problems, including advanced dementia.

Early in her varied career Ms. Brightman was known for her involvement 
in the issues of the 1960s; among other things, she founded Viet Report, 
an influential newsletter about the Vietnam War, in 1965. She traveled 
to both North Vietnam and Cuba during that period, one of the few 
Americans to do so.

But she was perhaps best known for three books. In 1992 she published 
“Writing Dangerously: Mary McCarthy and Her World,” a biography of the 
groundbreaking, sometimes controversial author of “The Group” (1963) and 
other novels. Susan Brownmiller, reviewing “Writing Dangerously” in The 
Chicago Tribune, called it “a thoughtful, utterly admirable venture, 
written with the kind of balance and fairness that McCarthy herself was 
not wont to display.”

Three years later Ms. Brightman edited “Between Friends: The 
Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy, 1949-1975.” Her next 
book, published in 1998, traded that highbrow world for the one 
inhabited by Deadheads.

Titled “Sweet Chaos: The Grateful Dead’s American Adventure,” the book 
brought a nonfan’s perspective to the Grateful Dead phenomenon. Ms. 
Brightman wasn’t a complete outsider — her sister, Candace Brightman, 
was the band’s lighting designer for many years — but she attended her 
first Dead concert only in 1972, years after the group had begun to draw 
attention. In the book she contrasted her own 1960s activism with the 
Dead’s apolitical, mellow worldview.

“I didn’t know it then,” she wrote in the introduction, describing the 
1972 concert she attended at the Academy of Music in New York, “but I 
was witnessing the genesis of a movement whose takeoff was related to 
the breakdown of my own. If the climate of the ’60s made you feel things 
could be changed and were worth changing, the climate of the ’70s, more 
like today’s, counseled retreat from storms over which you had no control.”

She interviewed not only members of the group but also fans, and she 
came to appreciate their devotion and their omnipresence.

“Deadheads are everywhere and nowhere,” she wrote, “so much a part of 
American life as to appear almost invisible.”

Carol Deborah Morton Brightman was born on Oct. 5, 1939, in Baltimore. 
Her daughter said Ms. Brightman had been named after an aunt, Deborah 
Morton, who had in turn been named after an ancestor named Deborah 
Sampson, who had fought in the Revolutionary War disguised as a man — a 
connection from which Ms. Brightman drew inspiration and identity.

Her father, Carl Gordon Brightman Jr., worked in sales in the publishing 
business, and her mother, Lucille Caroline (Hancock) Brightman, was a 
homemaker. She grew up in Baltimore and in Wilmette and Winnetka, Ill. 
After graduating from New Trier High School in Winnetka in 1957, she 
earned a bachelor’s degree in history at Vassar College in 1961 and a 
master’s degree at the University of Chicago in 1963.

She was a 26-year-old graduate assistant in English at New York 
University in 1965 when she founded Viet Report.

“Carol was one of the first to make vivid that an antidote to mass media 
was needed to understand the truth about what was going on in Vietnam,” 
the novelist Beverly Gologorsky, who was Viet Report’s managing editor, 
said by email.

The purpose of Viet Report, Ms. Brightman told The New York Times in 
1965, was “to inform and not to persuade.” The second issue republished 
the text of the 1954 Geneva agreements, which had ended French rule in 
Indochina and partitioned Vietnam; other issues reprinted accounts from 
European publications from inside the war zone, which often gave views 
different from what the American press was reporting.

In 1967 Ms. Brightman traveled to North Vietnam as part of a contingent 
of the so-called Russell Tribunal, created by the philosopher Bertrand 
Russell to examine the possibility that the United States had committed 
war crimes in Vietnam.

The publication was sent to libraries and sold by groups like the 
American Friends Service Committee and Students for a Democratic 
Society. It ended publication in 1968.

The next year, Ms. Brightman broadened her aim by helping to found 
Leviathan, an underground newspaper that, its self-description said, 
“will serve the Movement as it builds a mass revolutionary force and a 
new social vision.” It lasted a year and a half.

Ms. Brightman was also a leader of the Venceremos Brigade, which 
arranged for young Americans to go to Cuba to experience the results of 
the Cuban revolution first hand, a trip she made herself. She and Sandra 
Levinson edited a book of writings by participants, “Venceremos Brigade: 
Young Americans Sharing the Life and Work of Revolutionary Cuba” (1971).

Ms. Brightman taught for a time at Brooklyn College and was an associate 
editor at Geo magazine. She settled in Walpole, Maine, in the 1980s.

“I really started serious book writing in Maine,” she told The Bangor 
Daily News in 1999. “I don’t know what the influence is. Up here, I’ve 
become a writer.”

In the mid-1960s Ms. Brightman married John McDermott, who had helped 
start Viet Report. They divorced in 1972. She had long-term 
relationships with Richard Levy, the father of her daughter, and with 
Michael Uhl, with whom she had a son, Simon Brightman-Uhl. In addition 
to her son, her daughter and her sister, she is survived by a brother, 
Chris, and three grandchildren.

Ms. Brightman wrote for various publications over the years, including 
occasionally for The Times. In 1999 she wrote a frustration-filled essay 
for the paper’s Book Review about the consequences when her Grateful 
Dead book was misidentified by some book-listing services under an 
early, rejected title, “Fat Trip,” a phrase Jerry Garcia, the band’s 
frontman, used to describe something odd or unexpected.

The mistake, she said, was causing the work to be marketed as a diet book.



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