Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Alston Lovejoy (1908-1956)

NĂ© William Alston Ritchie Lovejoy
Author, Artist, Illustrator, Cartoonist, Journalist, Copywriter
Born January 1, 1908, Mountain View, California
Died July 10, 1956, Monterey, California

I set out to write brief biographies of the authors and artists who contributed to Weird Tales magazine, and more often than not, I am confounded by the fascinating complexity and connectedness of their lives. The case of Alston Lovejoy would seem simple enough at first glance. A Google search for that name renders few results. It would appear Alston Lovejoy was just another of the now obscure names who wrote for Weird Tales. Then a snippet from an academic journal opens up his life, for Alston Lovejoy was better known as Ritchie Lovejoy, the writer to whom John Steinbeck (1902-1968) donated his $1,000 Pulitzer Prize award for The Grapes of Wrath and who was part of Steinbeck's circle in Monterey from the 1930s onward. I'll leave Lovejoy's life story to someone who can tell it with full knowledge and intimacy, his son, John Lovejoy (named for Steinbeck), who wrote an article called "The Man Who Became a Steinbeck Footnote" for the Steinbeck Review in Fall 2008 (Vol. 5, No. 2, pp.59-84). I'll simply cover some interesting facts here.

Ritchie Lovejoy was born on the first day of the year 1908 in Mountain View, California. His father was a fruit farmer, his mother the daughter of a prominent California architect, George W. Page. Lovejoy worked as a journalist in Monterey and Alaska, as a copywriter, author, artist, illustrator, and cartoonist. Perhaps he met his wife, Alaskan Natalya "Tal" Kashevaroff, while in Alaska. Her sister Sasha married one of Lovejoy's associates, the novelist, historian, conservationist, and explorer Jack Calvin (1901-1985). (Calvin wrote an account of a canoe trip he made up the inland passage, from Tacoma to Juneau, in the July 1933 issue of National Geographic.) In 1930, Lovejoy was living in San Francisco and employed as an artist. By the end of the decade, he was ready to give up work as a copywriter upon receiving Steinbeck's gift of the proceeds from his Pulitzer Prize.

Lovejoy may never have fulfilled the promise implied by Steinbeck's gift. A novel seems to have gone unfinished. His one credit for Weird Tales was a story called "Thrice Dead," published in November 1929 when Lovejoy was just twenty-one years old. However, Lovejoy illustrated a classic of ecology, Between Pacific Tides, by Edward Ricketts (1897-1948), Jack Calvin, and, in later editions, Joel Hedgpeth (1911-2006). Coincidentally, the book was published in the same year as The Grapes of Wrath. Among the others in Steinbeck's circle in the Monterey area were Henry Miller (1891-1980) and Joseph Campbell (1904-1987). Most of these men outlived Ritchie Lovejoy, who died on July 10, 1956, in Monterey.

Alston Lovejoy's Story in Weird Tales
"Thrice Dead" (Nov. 1929)

Further Reading
"The Man Who Became a Steinbeck Footnote" by John Lovejoy in Steinbeck Review, Fall 2008 (Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 59-84), as well as various publications on Steinbeck's life and work.

Ritchie Lovejoy's portrait of John Steinbeck, his friend and benefactor.
And a two-page spread from Between Pacific Tides (1939), illustrated by Lovejoy in collaboration with friends and associates from the Monterey area.
Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley

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