Van Dyke, Henry

(b. 1928)

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(b. 1928), editor, journalist, and novelist.

Born in Allegan, Michigan, Henry Van Dyke spent his childhood in Montgomery, Alabama, where his father taught at Alabama State Teachers College. He returned to Michigan for high school and remained to receive an MA in journalism from the University of Michigan in 1955. While at Michigan, Van Dyke received the Avery Hopwood Award for Fiction. After graduating he worked as a journalist and editor in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York. During his time on the editorial staff at Basic Books in New York he finished his first published novel, Ladies of the Rachmaninoff Eyes (1965). His short pieces have appeared in Transatlantic Review, Generation, Antioch Review, and The O. Henry Prize Stories, 1979.

Van Dyke's work addresses race relations issues prominent in the 1960s and 1970s. He writes about conflict among African Americans, between African Americans and white and Jewish Americans. He is influenced by modernist writers and ideas. The plot of Ladies of the Rachmaninoff Eyes revolves around the production of a Gertrude Stein play by self-proclaimed members of her circle. The production serves as the stage for exploring the relations between the young African American protagonist, Oliver, and the Jewish production team. His second novel, Blood of Stawberries (1968), is dedicated to the white chronicler of the Harlem Renaissance, Carl Van Vechten. Issues of race relations again arise in Dead Piano (1971), his third novel, this time within the African American community. Drawing on current affairs at the time of publication, Dead Piano uses an outsider, a militant African American group, to upset the social structure of a light-skinned, middle-class African American family. In the microcosm of a few stressful hours in the family's apartment, the characters address large social issues of assimilation and separatism.

Granville Hicks, “Literary Horizons,” Saturday Review, 4 Jan. 1969, 93.Edward G. McGhee, “Henry Van Dyke,” in DLB, vol. 33, Afro-American Fiction Writers after 1955, eds. Thadious M. Davis and Trudier Harris, 1984, pp. 250–255.

Caroline Senter

Subjects: Literature.

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